The reader is a precisely and beautifully constructed fable about guilt, public and private. It is, like its narrator, meticulous, reflective and intelligent. It is also full of what Henry James called “felt life,” urgent, messy and painful.
It opens with an encounter between a 15-year-old boy and a woman in her late 30s. He is recovering from jaundice and vomits outside the building where she lives. The woman grabs him “roughly,” cleans him up, and makes him help her to clean the pavement. He sees her putting on her stockings, through a keyhole, and is haunted by this image.…
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