Picks and Pans Review: A Severed Wasp

updated 01/17/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/17/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Madeleine L'Engle

A retired concert pianist comes home from Paris to live in her house in New York's Greenwich Village. An old boyfriend from her youth, now a retired Episcopal bishop who helps out at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, asks the pianist to give a benefit to help in the building program. During the next few months the heroine meets the new bishop, the dean and his family, several nuns, and a mysterious character in the cathedral who makes malicious phone calls. While taking up her new life, she relives her past—Nazi tortures, illicit affairs, two horrible tragedies and several death scenes. L'Engle is famous for her prize-winning A Wrinkle in Time, a novel for children. She also has the curious distinction of being "writer in residence" at the New York cathedral that is the setting for this uneven novel. A lot of serious subjects are touched on—a bishop suggests the church has become like a wasp that has been cut in half but doesn't know it is dead until it tries to fly—yet meaning finally loses out to the book's gossipy tone and heavy romantic details. (Farrar Straus Giroux, $15.50)

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