October 03, 1997 at 04:00 AM EDT

Perfidia

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Judith Rossner
genre
Fiction
We gave it a B+

Judith Rossner (Looking for Mr. Goodbar) was obviously inspired by the real-life story, a few years back, of the Harvard applicant who killed her abusive mother with a candlestick; this is the tale of a Dartmouth applicant who kills her abusive mother with a broken tequila bottle. In Perfidia, Anita Stern, an alcoholic, tortures her daughter, Madeleine, emotionally and sometimes physically from the time the girl is 6. The superficial catalyst for the torture is the birth of another child, a son, whom Anita patently favors over her daughter; the subtext is the complicated, often illogical bond between parent and offspring. In the end, Madeleine’s desperate act — couched in Judith Rossner’s slick, almost confessional tone — seems less shocking than inevitable. B+

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