From Publishers Weekly
The primal fear of maternal abandonment is twisted into this insistently dark, atmospheric novel by London Times
literary editor Wagner, author of a story collection (Gravity
) and nonfiction book on Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath (Ariel's Gift
). Janet Ward, in a settled long-term relationship but suffering from dreamlike seizures, is shocked to suddenly inherit a house from her mother—whom she had always believed died when she was three. Upon her arrival at the small seaside stone cottage in the English north, Janet discovers she is not alone: a man named Tom has been given a key of his own. A torrid spell of stories and dreams from the past (an elusive mother, seal-women and demon lovers, journeys across the sea) follows, along with the present reality of Tom and Janet together in the cottage, trying to figure out who they are to one another and why their meeting feels like destiny. Much of the book is a drawn-out, portentous standoff between the two, and readers won't be surprised at their mutual attraction or the truth of their connection. The prose is overblown and repetitive, and layers of symbolism further weigh the story down, but Wagner's lyrical vision of Janet is palpable through the haze. (Apr.)
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In her first novel, Wagner, literary editor at The Times
(London), tells an intense story of identity in sensuous prose. British city-planner Janet had always been told that her mother was killed in a hit-and-run accident. Then she discovers that her mother has left her a stone cottage on the coast. As she starts to sift through the stories her father told her when she was a child, she begins to realize that everything she thought she knew about her parents might be a lie. She also senses her own growing estrangement from her live-in boyfriend, a traveling musician, and once again starts to experience brain seizures, which have plagued her on and off since childhood. She decides to find out whether the cottage will provide any clues to her mother's motivations for abandoning her family. But once there she encounters a charismatic stranger, who seems somehow familiar and who offers stories of his own. Wagner makes their passionate relationship the centerpiece of this unusual novel, which artfully probes the mysterious nature of human connection. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved