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FICTION : THE GOLD TIP PFITZER by Irene Handl (Knopf: $13.95).

July 27, 1986|Judith Freeman-Hernandez

"The Gold Tip Pfitzer" is a sequel to Irene Handl's first and only other novel, "The Sioux." Both were written in the 1960s by the English actress-turned-novelist and are being issued after years out of print. They detail the lives of the Benoirs, a family so rich and fiercely devoted that woe to those who would attempt to marry into the tribe. Vincent Castleton has made just such a mistake by marrying the beautiful, bitchy Marguerite Benoir, and by doing so, acquiring 10-year-old George for a stepson. George suffers from leukemia, and in both this novel and its predecessor, the boy's illness fuels the story.

These novels are so original, it's like coming across a new species of animal. The atmosphere is one of extreme wealth, behavior and devotion, evoked in rich and unusual language that relies on colloquialisms and highly witty talk. Handl is also adept at the simple, lovely description: "the rainy smell of watered grass." Characters, although eccentric, are never unbelievable. "The Sioux" takes place in New Orleans, while the sequel has the family located back in their native France, where poor little George grows increasingly weaker and the family more savage in reaction. For full appreciation, the best way to read "The Gold Tip Pfitzer" is to read "The Sioux" first. They are such good works they deserve to be read in order.

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