Envy deals with the
subject of brotherly betrayal. As the
reviewer for The New York Observer puts it,
'Envy touches the nerve that drives
Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Will and his
cold-blooded fish of a brother.' The same
reviewer goes on to ponder 'The question is:
Do we accept all this [from Harrison]
because, after 10 psyche-shattering books,
[she] has debauched us by now? Or is it
because we recognize that she's
communicating something important?'
The Washington Post reviewer would reply to this musing with a resounding and definite no, saying, "Writers and critics who complain of the shrinking audience for literary fiction argue -- validly -- that huge advances and advertising budgets for blockbusters reduce the resources left to promote serious novels. But the chances of good literary fiction finding an audience are also damaged when books such as Kathryn Harrison's Envy are published and passed off as worthy. Ten pages of Envy are enough to make you yearn for the juiciest trash novel you can find; 50 will have you dreaming of box-top recipes."
Others disagree, Donna Seaman, a very experienced reviewer for Booklist thinks "'Harrison's dialogue is electrifying, the sophistication of her psychology is mesmerizing, and her characters, so astutely drawn, are bewitching."
Personally speaking, Envy was a disappointment after The Binding Chair - call me middle-aged and boring but there are just so many subjects that I find more interesting than other people's sexual fantasies. However, I can see that Envy would be of appeal to many, so don't be swayed by my opinions, instead browse an excerpt for yourself.
This review was originally published in July 2005, and has been updated for the July 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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