The Mistressclass: A Novel

The Mistressclass: A Novel

by Michèle Roberts
     
 

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A painter's death sets into motion a story of desire--past and present--and its enduring repercussions

Catherine and Vinny are sisters and writers living in contemporary London. Catherine, a professor, publishes erotic novels under an assumed name, keeping her acclaimed novelist husband, Adam, in the dark. When not writing her poetry, Vinny wandersSee more details below

Overview


A painter's death sets into motion a story of desire--past and present--and its enduring repercussions

Catherine and Vinny are sisters and writers living in contemporary London. Catherine, a professor, publishes erotic novels under an assumed name, keeping her acclaimed novelist husband, Adam, in the dark. When not writing her poetry, Vinny wanders the streets of the city marking the houses of female authors with chalk quotations from their work.

When Adam's father dies, both women are forced to reconsider the event that shaped their lives, the betrayal at the heart of their relationships. Haunted by their individual and common pasts, they must come to terms with each other, and with their present-day lives.

Acclaimed author Michèle Roberts not only brings history to life--interwoven into this contemporary narrative is the story of another set of sisters, the Brontës--but illuminates the way it informs, or shadows, the present. Evocative, emotional, and intelligent, The Mistressclass is an exploration of the desires that move us--toward art and literature, and toward each other.


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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
… Roberts's sharp but sympathetic character studies give the love triangle uncommon depth. — Megan Harlan
Publishers Weekly
In her 12th novel, the Booker shortlisted Roberts (The Looking Glass) presents two London writer-sisters in their early 50s locked in a slow-motion love triangle. The more practical Catherine, whom Roberts makes pointedly slim, teaches part time at a local college, writes pornographic novels using an alias to supplement her income and is married to Adam, a critically well-regarded though not commercially successful novelist. Vinny, a poet, has a spotty employment record and a thicker waist, but takes literature much more seriously, and had known and loved Adam first. In a series of flashbacks, Vinny loses him to Catherine on a vacation the three take to France to visit Adam's father, Robert, a painter who has a house there. The novel progresses in an undemanding and not unpleasant free, indirect style, and readers may find themselves rooting for warmer, more tolerant and honest Vinny to become reinvolved with Adam, who has grown weary of Catherine's adept negotiations with the world. That story is intercut with a subplot that turns on Vinny's love for Charlotte and Emily Bront and includes the by now somewhat tired gambit of fictionalized letters that invert the main story; Charlotte writes to her former teacher at a Brussels boarding school, Monsieur Heger, whom she loves with a searing passion despite her marriage to a clergyman. Roberts delivers familiar midlife pathos, longing and literary frisson unpretentiously and with enough flourish to hold interest throughout. Agent, Gillon Aitken. (Sept. 10) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Though half-French, Roberts offers a distinctly British fiction-stoically understated and as concerned with passion for literature as with passion for people-about two sisters competing for one man's love. Actually, Roberts (The Looking Glass, 2001, etc.) is writing about two sets of sisters: The story is interlaced with supposedly unmailed letters from Charlotte Bront� to her former teacher in Brussels. Charlotte's unrequited love for M. Heger, as well as her allusions to Heger's possible preference for her sister Emily, mirror much of the contemporary story of Catherine and Vinny. Catherine, a professor with domestic instincts along the lines of Mrs. Dalloway, secretly writes women's erotica-soft porn-to support her weakness for comfort and finery (the brief scene in which she gets an expensive haircut is worth the price of the book for its sensual portrayal of middle-aged womanhood). Catherine has been married for many years to Adam, a respected novelist working as a carpenter, supposedly to research a novel. Their children grown, Catherine and Adam have just moved into the small house Adam's artist father has bequeathed to them. To their housewarming come Charlie, whose gallery Adam is building, and Vinny, Catherine's more bohemian sister, a poet whose favorite novel is Jane Eyre. Sexual undercurrents run between Adam and Vinny as well as between Catherine and Charlie. All end up in the bedroom looking at Robert's best painting-for which Catherine was the model. It turns out that Vinny and Adam were a couple back in their 20s. At loose ends, Catherine accompanied them to Robert's studio in France and ended up with Adam (maybe Robert too). Now it turns out that Vinny still lovesAdam, who in turn is distraught over his discovery of Catherine's secret career but even more over his own secret: writer's block. As all sort out their feelings and memories, the plot meanders toward its purposely-inconclusive ending. Written with care and real affection for its characters, fictional and historical. Agent: Gillon Aitken/Gillon Aitken Associates

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781466866461
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/18/2014
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
File size:
0 MB

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