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Mrs. Caliban

By (author) Rachel Ingalls
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Faber & Faber, London, United Kingdom
Published: 31st Jan 1982
Dimensions: w 130mm h 190mm
ISBN-10: 0571118267
ISBN-13: 9780571118267
Barcode No: 9780571118267

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Kirkus US
As in her previous novellas and short stories (Theft, 1970; Mediterranean Cruise, 1973), Ingalls is better at small touches than overall thrust here - in a somewhat preachy, somewhat confused parable/novella about the doomed love affair between a childless suburban housewife and a sea-monster named Larry. Dorothy, who has lost a child (an appendectomy gone wrong) and a baby (miscarriage), now seems to be losing her husband: Fred is "working late" with suspicious frequency these days. Also disturbing: Dorothy hears things on the radio that no one else hears - including personal messages. And then, during a small dinner-party one night, "a gigantic six-foot-seven-inch froglike creature shouldered its way into the house," confronting Dorothy in her kitchen. It's "Aquarius the Monsterman," the captured sea/land animal who escaped from a research institute after killing his keepers! But within ten pages Dorothy and the monster (a high verbal, vulnerable fellow) are making love; she hides him in the spare bedroom, teaches him to drive, to appreciate modern dance; he tells her of his tortures, of his E.T.-ish misery. ("I'll always be here where I'm not able to belong, and . . . I'll never be able to get back home, never. . . .") And Dorothy is re-born . . . until "Larry" kills again - an upset which leads to another one: Fred's adultery is exposed (it involves Dorothy's boozy best friend), Dorothy is caught between loyalties, and she loses both men in her life in a violent, contrived finale. An intriguing outline? Very much so. But Ingalls never finds the consistent tone needed to bring off the whimsy/tragedy blend: the charming yet utterly unbelievable Dorothy/Larry romance mixes poorly with the plot's other, more melodramatic-or-mundane twistings. And, despite a moment or two of inspired, sly comedy, this two-toned fable of failed relationships (an Ingalls trademark) never quite achieves the fanciful grip of fantasy - or the direct emotional impact of more realistic domestic fiction. (Kirkus Reviews)