A Sea Change
It is J. R. Salamanca’s special gift to create in his novels a world of feeling—in The Lost Country, a pastoral world; in Lilith, a world of fever and dementia; here, a romantic and loving world corrupted by the death of desire.
The story of a marriage is told. Michael, still young, looks back—to his passionate courtship of his wife, Margaret, in Washington after the war.; to the ecstatic beginning of their life together (one flesh, one sensibility, one name even: “Mickey” to each other); to almost blind consummation of his first adultery (with a girl whose animality is in contrast to the Ariel-like fineness he worships in his wife); and finally to an exquisite nightmare summer and the French Mediterranean resort to which he has brought his wife in a desperate attempt to recover what is lost.
There, in a lovely coastal town dedicated to pleasure, he falls in with an attractive and worldly society that provides the instruments of catastrophe—the catastrophe toward which his life with Margaret has been spiraling. There is an actress, a fascinating and totally honest woman, with whom he has a violent affair; and there is a young Italian gigolo—at once simple and frighteningly shrewd—who furnishes the unconsciously sought –after coup de grâce to the fading idyll of Michael and Margaret.
A Sea Change is about the havoc wrought in marriage by the ebbing of desire, about the impossibility of willing oneself to love—and the ways in which, attempting the impossible, men drift into cruelties of which they would have believed themselves incapable. It is the richest and most ambitious work of a greatly gifted novelist.
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