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November 06, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

ACROSS THE BRIDGE by Mavis Gallant (Carroll & Graf: $10.95; 198 pp.). These gentle stories have a nostalgic tone that suggests a faded watercolor. Three of the stories focus on a woman and her two daughters adjusting to their shifting fortunes in Montreal: A carefully circumscribed area of the city becomes the world for one daughter, and she carries her prejudice throughout her life. Gallant captures the tremulous uncertainty of a young woman poised on the brink of adulthood in the title story. A prolonged lunch in a cheap cafe enables the narrator to accept a stolid but reliable fiance the significance of the meal becomes "a small secret, insignificant, but it belonged to the true life that was almost ready to let me in. And so it did; and, yes, it made me happy."

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