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Lilian's Story


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In this first novel Grenville chronicles the life of Lil Sanger from her childhood in Australia in the early 1900s to her death. An imaginative loner as a child, Lil becomes increasingly alienated from her family and friends as she becomes a young woman. Lacking prospects for marriage because of her eccentricity and excessive weight, Lil enrolls briefly as a university student, but a violent incident with her father leads him to commit her to an insane asylum. Lil is eventually removed from the asylum by her aunt, who ends up supporting her. Grenville tries admirably to render Lil as a free spirit who chooses to live apart from ``normal'' society, but despite her good writing the result is unconvincing. Winner of the Australian/Vogel Award. Lucinda Ann Peck, Learning Design Associates, Gahanna, Ohio

Lilian begins her book with her own birth and almost manages to conclude it from beyond the grave, but only occasionally exacts from the reader genuine interest in her affairs. In fact, she is a fat, lonely child who becomes a fat, eccentric (though, she insists, brilliant) woman. Her mother is afflicted by vapors, her father by pseudo-intellectuality and her younger brother by the shyness common to boys who wear glasses. Since it is hinted early on that Father's proclivities are not wholly cerebral, his incestuous attack upon Lilian is not a shock, but his subsequent insults and vituperations, culminating in his having her committed, seem without foundation. Although he accuses her of behaving like a whore, Lilian remains a virgin throughout and indeed, once out of the asylum, lives chastely with a drunken cabdriver until he dies. This award-winning first novel by Australian writer Grenville promises more than it delivers. Lilian's story, however, often has the quality of a dream recounted while the dreamer is half asleep. This alone is a remarkable achievement. (August 4)

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