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This review is taken from PN Review 140, Volume 27 Number 6, July - August 2001.

SCORES ELAINE FEINSTEIN, Dark Inheritance (The Women's Press) £9.99
ELAINE FEINSTEIN, Gold (Carcanet) £6.95

Elaine Feinstein has won awards for both her prose and poetry as well as in the field of translation where her versions of Marina Tsvetaeva's poems are highly regarded. Her recent publications, a novel, Dark Inheritance and a collection of poems, Gold, allow some correspondence of ideas but also stand as deserving praise in their respective genres. To take the novel first, Dark Inheritance has been accurately described as a cross between the writing of A.S. Byatt and that of Fay Weldon. True, it has all the skill and depth of the former alongside the wit and brio of the latter but ultimately its more than the sum of these comparable successes. It is well written, has great narrative pace, is full of tension and for the most part, its thoroughly gripping. Part love story, part rite of passage, part exploration of a woman's emotional landscape, it is a compelling read; polished, confident and wearing its own knowledge lightly in the many scholarly references it contains. Using the plot devices of a conventional thriller, Dark Inheritance drives the reader onwards while gesturing constantly inwards towards a deeper, discomforting exploration. Surface discoveries are matched by buried anxieties, telling revelations and sometimes violent realisations.

Rachel O'Malley, a London-based freelance literary critic and scholar, approaching forty, is the parent of a teenage son. Single, but diminished by a failed marriage, she accepts a financially lucrative, but enigmatic assignment in Rome - to interview a reclusive but brilliant young Italian novelist, ...


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