Summary and book reviews of Envy by Kathryn Harrison

Envy

A Novel

by Kathryn Harrison

Envy
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2005, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2006, 320 pages

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Book Summary

Hypnotic, beautifully written, this mesmerizing novel explores the corrosive effect of evil – and how painful psychological truths long buried within a family can corrupt the present and, through courage and understanding, lead to healing and renewal.

Will has a good sex life with the woman he married. So why then is he increasingly plagued by violent erotic fantasies that, were they to break out of his imagination and into the real world, have the power to destroy not only his family but his career? He's about to lose his grip when he attends a college reunion and there discovers evidence of a past sexual betrayal, one serious enough that it threatens to overpower the present, even as it offers a key to Will's dangerous obsessions.

Hypnotic, beautifully written, this mesmerizing novel by "an extremely gifted writer" (San Francisco Chronicle) explores the corrosive effect of evil–and how painful psychological truths long buried within a family can corrupt the present and, through courage and understanding, lead to healing and renewal. "Like Scheherezade in the grip of a fever dream, Kathryn Harrison . . . has written one of those rare books, in language of unparalleled beauty, that affirm the holiness of life," said Shirley Ann Grau, about Poison. And the same can be said about Envy.

Will leans out of the driver's-side window toward his wife. "It's not too late to change your mind," he says.

Her dark glasses show him the houses on their side of the block, greatly reduced and warped by the convexity of each lens. The fancy wrought-iron bars on their neighbor's windows, the bright plastic backboard of the Little Tikes basketball hoop one door down, the white climbing rose, suddenly and profusely in bloom, on the trellis by their own mailbox: it's as if he were studying one of those jewel-like miniatures painted in Persia during the sixteenth century; the longer Will looks, the more tiny details he finds.

"Did you remember to bring pictures?" Carole asks.

He points to an envelope on the seat beside him. "I mentioned the pool at the hotel?"

"Several times....

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Envy was a disappointment after The Binding Chair. Call me middle-aged 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. As always, we provide an excerpt so that you can browse the book for yourself and decide if it's right for you.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (193 words).

Media Reviews

The Washington Post

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, road maps, computer instructions -- anything with a purpose.

Kirkus Reviews

Harrison's measured, matter-of-fact prose gives each perverse twist of her pulpish plot a nasty kick, taking readers into the heart of Will's deep sadness and out the other side. An unsparing examination of the turbulent depths beneath anunsuspecting hero's most unexceptionable-seeming fantasies, and a life patently too normal to be true.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Will's profession as an analyst seems too convenient - allowing Harrison to analyze her own novel through the voice of her main character - but this is a pardonable flaw in a book so juicy and intelligent.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Harrison's dialogue is electrifying, the sophistication of her psychology is mesmerizing, and her characters, so astutely drawn, are bewitching.

Reader Reviews

Eddiebloue

Bored to death
By an author who is capable of writing literature, this "book" is a self-serving journey into the field of psychiatry and I, for one, have never had much use for psycho-babble. Aside from that, it appears that the author is obsessed by ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Can a book have substantial sexual content and still be considered literary? When it's written by Kathryn Harrison, some say the answer is yes, others say not on your life! She is the author of 7 novels and 5 non-fiction books, including her memoirs, The Kiss (1997), in which she describes her four year affair with her estranged father which began when she was 20, and The Mother Knot (2004), in which she goes back to her childhood with a dysfunctional mother and grandmother, and absent father. Her first ...

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