Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyJaeggy, a Swiss-born writer living in Italy, gives her narrator an abundance of memorable lines describing a boarding school set in idyllic Switzerland. Recalling the constant machinations and undercurrents there, she comments, ``A boarding school is like a harem.'' And she seems to be right: less time is spent studying than courting favored friends. The narrator is particularly intrigued by Frederique, a disdainful girl who claims that she has ``an old woman's hands,'' which the narrator hears as a compliment. But then a frivolous new student named Micheline--she has red hair and looks ``a bit like Gilda''--causes the narrator to abandon Frederique by promising that she will give a huge ball at which all the students will dance with her charming father. Tim Parks does an admirable job of keeping the ice-cold language flowing. But the novel leaves a sense that its story line is a metaphor for something else, although it is never completely clear what, and after a while this vague profundity starts to get tiring; the ambiguous ending does not improve matters. (May)
Library JournalThis novel is like a walk down an unlit alley at night, alone, in the rain. The narrator is a girl at a boarding school in postwar Switzerland. Through her heightened senses we become aware of the awakening sexuality of the young girls far away from the familiarities of home and the impending doom and madness that lurk at the gate. Imprisoned in an artificial reality, she portrays the other inmates in a sardonic light. The narrator's friendship and obsession with the ideal new girl, Frederique, bring to mind lines from Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil : ``Moment by moment, Time envelops me/ like a stiffening body buried in the snow . . ./ I contemplate the infinitesimal globe,/ and I no longer seek asylum there'' (``Craving for Oblivion''). This is an excellent purchase for any library collecting experimental fiction.-- Peggie Partello, Keene State Coll., N.H.
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