cover image The Stepson

The Stepson

Emmanuel Bove. Marlboro Press, $22.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-56897-029-5

Written in the late '30s but not published until 1991, Bove's novel is not a book for the sentimentally inclined. Revisiting many of the psychological nooks and crannies of A Singular Man , it is filled with self-involved characters who, if not terribly likable, are certainly terribly human. In 1906, the haute bourgeois Annie Villemur, in a fit of youthful rebellion and love, embarks on a morganatic marriage with Jean-Melchior Oetlinger, a penniless man with a young illegitimate son, Jean-Noel. For a decade, the Oetlingers and Jean-Noel live in Nice, until Jean-Melchior's death opens the way for Annie and her stepson to return to her family's lavish apartment in Paris. When eventually forced to leave, Jean-Noel is stymied: unable to accept that he has no birthright to his stepmother's milieu, he bides his time waiting to be recalled into the charmed circle. With all his energy devoted to the self-involved Annie, there is little left for work (when he has it) or his various relationships--one of which results in a daughter. Readers will recognize (and flinch from) many of Bove's mordant psychological details, but most of all they will be engrossed by his disquieting portrait of a man on the edge of unfathomable despair, saved only by his vanity from seeing the sordidness beneath him. (July)