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LANTERN SLIDES by Edna O'Brien (Plume: $8.95).

July 07, 1991|Charles Solomon

Edna O'Brien probes the hearts and minds of the men and women who inhabit the crumbling cottages and elegant mansions of contemporary Britain in these handsomely crafted short stories. "Epitaph" traces the birth and death of a love affair between a single woman and a married man. Abandoned, the woman sadly recalls how they initially enjoyed "the most eerie intimacy, as if you had come to rest in the roost of my mind, like a hen at night folded up in its own feathers." The spiteful gossip of a small village sabotages a lonely woman's last chance for happiness in "The Widow." As a pair of lovers struggle to re-establish their former intimacy in "Long Distance," the woman concludes, "Love . . . is like nature, but in reverse; first it fruits, then it flowers, then it seems to wither, then it goes deep, deep down into its burrow, where no one sees it, where it is lost from sight, and ultimately people die with that secret buried inside their souls." Winner of The Times Book Prize for Fiction, 1990.

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