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This novel impressed me as intelligent and thought provoking. It follows the life of an art historian, Dominique, from her early days in the university. In these early days, she falls in love with a man, Rex, who brings out her passion. While he is her intellectual match, he abruptly leaves academia, instead pursuing a patchwork life helping various leftist causes. With the same suddenness that he abandons academia, he abandons Dominique suddenly, and without warning...and not just once! She keeps coming back for more, for decades, only to have him disappear, usually without warning. There are other men (one in particular) who are much more generous and caring towards her, but she is always drawn to Rex. Dominique's interior monologue, the erudite commentaries on art and academia, her dry wit, and some of the author's imagery are enough to hold one's attention. I also enjoyed the narration by Celeste Lawson. However, Dominique's repeated returns to Rex over decades strain credibility, as he really does not come across as a likeable or dependable person. Dominique, as developed by the author, is such an intelligent and thoughtful observer of human nature that her lifelong obsession with Rex does not make sense. What I found most lacking about this book was the story line. Despite all the interior monologue and having read about more than 3 decades of her life, I feel as if I really didn't know what Dominique's day-to-day life was like. Except for her academic work and appreciation of Poussin and Goya (described in some detail), much of the rest of her life (friends, relatives, losses, vacations, shopping, neighbors, etc.) is absent from the story. In the end, the book struck me as interesting for some of its imagery, dialogue, and commentaries, but lacking in narrative substance. Not very highly recommended.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I couldn't even finish this book. I turned it off in disgust and said "Ugh! The pretentiousness!" Well, actually, I swore at a swerving minivan, but the sentiment was there.
I have to agree with Everett that it seemed odd that Dominique would keep returning to Rex. What seemed even more odd, though, was that every other man in the novel desired Dominique, she treated them like dirt, and I seriously could see no reason why they would keep coming back to a woman so emotionally unavailable. Her pretentiousness and her intellectualism and her frigidity (not in bed, oh no-- we get to hear about her sexual escapades in the most distant, dry manner possible) kept me wondering what anyone could see in her.
Plus, the novel is so heavily in Dominique's head, with inner monologue (which reads like the journal of an art history grad student with delusions of intellectual importance), there is no story to hang onto. It's hard to tell when something is even happening, and I seriously couldn't get excited even when something did.
If you are the kind of person who adores inner monologue rambling of a self-important icicle, you'll enjoy this. But it was definitely not for anyone who actually wants to listen to good storytelling.