THE LEGACY by Kirsten Tranter

Book Quote:

“Even as I said it I knew that the invitation was not like water to a thirsty soul, the way it felt, but more like a slug of whiskey to a recovering alcholic.”

Book Review:

Review by Betsey Van HornВ (OCT 29, 2010)

Every now and then, a novel comes along that is addicting. Nothing else gets done. Dinner gets burned, if it is even made, phones aren’t answered, and appointments are canceled. This is one of those novels. It is seductive, darkly sexual, haunting, and even frightening. You start waiting for the penny to drop, as the pages keep turning and the clues keep mounting. This is one very hypnotic novel.

After an enigmatic prologue, the book opens in Sydney, Australia. The narrator, Julia Alpers, is a law student not committed to her studies at this time. We are brought up to speed with her current dilemma: whether to go to New York on her old friend Ralph’s dime to investigate the last day’s of Ingrid, who disappeared on 9/11 (a year ago), or to tear up the ticket and ignore Ralph altogether. A murky undercurrent presides as pieces of their relationship unfold gradually.

At a leisurely but still tight pace, we learn the background and history of the friendship between Ralph, Julia, and Ingrid. Ingrid was almost an anachronism, a Grace Kelly type with a combination of innocence and power. Ralph had that androgynous and sometimes diffident charm. The triangulation of their relationship was complex, and I liked that it was uncommon, even within a certain familiarity.

This is a story that turns like a screw, gets more and more tense, as well as cross-stitched and dusky. It is finely artistic, with enough literary and art allusions to give you goose bumps. As the editorial description states, there is an analogy to Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady but it also imbibes other references. It has the appeal of a nineteenth-century portraiture with a twenty-first century excitement.

This is not a “post 9/11” novel. The events of that day, i.e., the tragedy of the dead and missing, were procured for the purposes of a personal tragedy. There are some unique references to the hole at Ground Zero, but this is not an exploitation novel of that day, or of the inherent politics surrounding that time.

I felt this rapt hum as I was reading, like a deep secret or a liquid center. The characters are lucidly drawn and filled with that brio of privilege and youth, an intellectual group of arty students who have a casual, refined, urbane sophistication and ardor that is sensual and ephemeral. Tranter’s sense of place is simply elegant, filled with the light from a window, a shadow across the wall, a tint in the eyes. Her descriptions of Sydney and New York are hypnotizing. And Tranter has a Tolstoyan grasp of psychology blended with physiognomy. Subtle, enigmatic expressions are given intricate meaning. It sometimes cut me to the bone.

The prose is fluid and rich, with a restrained passion and hunger. The story and characters become more complex, more complexioned, musky, ripe. It is moody, elegiac but droll, with what I would call a licorice tone to it. Deep, fertile, rooty. This is a real sleeper of a novel. Make sure your schedule is clear; this is virile and unputdownable.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 9 readers
PUBLISHER: Washington Square Press; Original edition (August 10, 2010)
REVIEWER: Betsey Van Horn
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Kirsten Trantor
EXTRAS: Reading Guide
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Not yet reviewed on MostlyFiction… but tone reminds me of:


October 29, 2010 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags: ,  В· Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Australia, Character Driven, Contemporary, Debut Novel, Literary, New York City, Noir, Reading Guide

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