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March 13, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE SUMMER HOUSE by Alice Thomas Ellis (Penguin: $9.95; 339 pp.). Ellis' quirky novel takes the form of three internal monologues by women involved in an imminent, unpromising marriage. Margaret is about to marry Syl, the neighbor's son, which doesn't seem to make anyone very happy. Margaret, who wants to become a nun, anticipates the event "the way a ship anticipates a shipwreck." Syl's mother, the neighborhood termagant, likes her son better than any other male, but that isn't saying very much. Lili, the aging, egotistical vamp who went to school with Margaret's brusque mother, also disapproves of the match. This unlikely trio comes together in an entertaining, offbeat tale of passion, motherhood and small-town scandal.

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