cover image Desideria


Nicole Kornher-Stace, . . Prime, $17.95 (364pp) ISBN 978-0-8095-7337-0

Madness meets mystery in this lush, disjointed debut. Consigned to a sanitarium after leaping from a burning theater with a small red book in her arms, amnesiac Ange St. Loup battles the abusive warders as she tries to unravel memory fragments that sometimes move the story along and sometimes drag it to a halt. Somewhere in Ange's head, a company of thespians wallows in its group drama while she wallows in her miserable cell, kept company by a young inmate and her book, which may or may not be blank. Dense, rich and sometimes sparkling, the story moves jerkily and without warning between credibility and disbelief. Although Kornher-Stace's prose often dazzles, the story is littered with false reveals and deeply unreliable narrators, leading to a twist conclusion that feels like a cheap trick. (Dec.)