Dark and Buzzing Looks

Susannah Clapp

  • Serenissima: A Novel of Venice by Erica Jong
    Bantam, 225 pp, £10.95, September 1987, ISBN 0 593 01365 4
  • Her Mother’s Daughter by Marilyn French
    Heinemann, 756 pp, £10.95, October 1987, ISBN 0 434 27200 0
  • The Wedding of Jayanthi Mandel by Sara Banerji
    Gollancz, 208 pp, £10.95, September 1987, ISBN 0 575 03984 1

When William Shakespeare kisses the heroine of Erica Jong’s novel, he does so ‘with molten sweetness’. When he goes to bed with her, Jessica Pruitt is ‘caught up in a sort of natural disaster ... It was as if meteorites showered the earth.’ This is new even to Ms Pruitt, who is accustomed to feeling her ‘silk panties moisten’, and given to referring darkly to ‘those other, lower lips’. She has flown to Italy from Hollywood to act her namesake in a ‘filmic fantasy’ based on The Merchant of Venice. She has speculated that in modern Venice, ‘life is very much as it was centuries ago.’ She has found herself whisked, at the touch of a magic ring, to the 16th century, where she is indeed Shylock’s daughter, and where ‘word-drunk Will’ is cruising the city with a very lascivious Earl of Southampton.

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