New Yorker writer Maeve Brennan delivered a posthumous one-two with her biting collections The Springs of Affection and The Rose Garden. Now comes The Visitor, a previously unpublished novella written in the 1940s. In Brennan's stories, something quietly horrid has always just happened, or is just about to happen, or both. In The Visitor, it seems to be both. Twenty-two-year-old Anastasia King returns to Dublin after living with her mother in Paris for the past six years. The two left behind Anastasia's father and his fierce old mother. It is to this scary granny that Anastasia returns, now that her mother and father have died. But she is met by an implacable rage: Mrs. King has determined not to forgive Anastasia for deserting the family. Brennan sketches in this woman's nastiness in just a few lines. Typically, she writes around her character, rather than tackling her head on: "Mrs. King came into the room in silence. She sat down without speaking, arranging her long black skirt about her long-hidden, unimaginable knees, and examining the tea tray with a critical eye." It is clear that while Anastasia thinks she has come home to stay, she is a mere visitor, and an unwelcome one at that.
Few writers so delicately and cruelly parse their countrymen; Brennan wickedly lays bare the malicious repression of the Irish. Even as she satirizes her sanctimonious people, she makes us know that the pain they inflict and feel is real. All this witty psychologizing is done with a minimum of characters and plot. The Visitor reads like an Elizabeth Bowen novel without all those words, or like Washington Square with jokes. Brennan even provides what might be called poetry, if that word weren't so cheap: a statue of the Virgin Mary has a "pale and averted face, sweet and moodless." The Visitor makes its departure all too quickly. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This previously unpublished novella by the late Brennan (The Rose Garden), a staff writer for the New Yorker for over 30 years, was recently discovered in a university archive. Written in the 1940s, it concerns 22-year-old Anastasia King's return to her paternal grandmother's home in Dublin, where she spent the first 16 quiet years of her life. Anastasia's motherAfragile, emotionally troubled MaryAdisgraced herself by running away from her husband, John, and especially his judgmental, domineering mother, and escaping to Paris, "looking for someone she remembered from when she was at school there.... It was just an idea she had." Anastasia followed her mother to France, and, when her father came to bring them back, the teenager refused to leave Mary and return to Dublin. Six years later, Mary has died and Anastasia, now alone, returns to her grandmother's house, expecting to be embraced. Grandmother King's reaction is cold; she soon informs Anastasia that she is welcome for a visit, but that she forfeited her birthright when she chose her unstable mother over her father, who died shortly after he returned from Paris by herself. Housekeeper Katherine attempts to soften Grandmother's steely reserve, and an old family friend, Norah Kilbride, elicits Anastasia's help in a deathbed promise. This early work by the respected writer never flinches from its exploration of the destructive power of family pride and anger. Brennan's restrained but touching evocation of a young woman whose heart has been wrung dry and who thereafter is condemned to permanent exile is permeated with outrage and sorrow. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.