Review From User :
An unforgiving, cold-eyed, wickedly beautiful little book.
A warning: if you have ever been crushingly lonely -- particularly if you have, on occasion, feebly attempted to rationalize that loneliness as a burden of your superior and isolating intelligence -- then I suspect that you, like me, will feel personally filleted by certain passages in this book.
Here's an example of Heller's brutally precise understanding of this manner of loneliness; what strikes me in this passage is how elegantly, how unsentimentally Heller limns Barbara Covett's outcast state:
"It's always a disappointing business confronting my own reflection. My body isn't bad. It's a perfectly nice, serviceable body. It's just that the external me... does so little credit to the stuff that's inside... I always wonder, what must it be like to have a beautiful body A body you don't want to escape Several years ago, [I] saw a woman dancing on the bar in a little bistro in Montmartre. She was very pretty and very, very young. All the men in the place were dribbling slightly. It was a silly thing really, but for just a moment, as I watched them watch her, I remember feeling that I would give anything -- be stupid, be impoverished, be fatally ill -- to have a little of her sort of power.
"...I stopped crying then, got down from the chair and made a cup of tea... Slowly I grew calm."
The grace of this passage -- the way Heller has Barbara casually mention her weeping in passing (and she doesn't return to it) -- made me gnash my teeth with envy.
Which is perhaps my highest form of praise.
Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has led a solitary life until Sheba Hart, the new art teacher at St. George’s, befriends her. But even as their relationship develops, so too does another: Sheba has begun an illicit affair with an underage male student. When the scandal turns into a media circus, Barbara decides to write an account in her friend’s defense – and ends up revealing not only Sheba’s secrets, but also her own.