The subject of this sudsy novel is the grim romance of Felicia Lisle and Robert Vane, two contemptible, self-obsessed stars of stage and screen who bear more than a passing resemblance to Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. When Lisle, suspicious of her lover’s waning sexual appetite, discovers that Vane is having a homosexual affair, she hits the bottle, falls into the arms of a sleazy movie mogul, and sabotages Vane’s career as well as her own. Michael Korda does a nimble job of linking his characters’ onstage and offstage lives: When Lisle and Vane appear in Othello together, Vane is in a jealous rage; when they take on Macbeth, Lisle’s problem is not ”how to play her, but how to stop.” Korda, who writes speed-readable prose, doesn’t like his characters any more than we do, and his novel has the gossipy, mean-spirited tone of an unauthorized biography. One finishes Curtain feeling more than a little embarrassed at having torn through it with such relish. B+

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