Picks and Pans Review: Mr. Bedford and the Muses

updated 10/03/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/03/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Gail Godwin

Fresh from the success of her latest novel, A Mother and Two Daughters, Godwin has produced a novella, Mr. Bedford, plus five short stories and an author's note to explain what she was doing. (She lived in England as a young woman and says, "I wanted to live in that English time again—but with the perspective that time and distance and imagination can bestow.") Mr. Bedford is narrated by a young woman in London who works in the American Embassy and lives in a boardinghouse run by a couple of American expatriates. The couple is thoroughly interesting: affected, genteel, dishonest, handsome, sometimes sinister and yet capable of great kindnesses. Their boarders are their victims, and the surprising thing is that the narrator, after suffering great indignity at the couple's hands, goes back to live with them again. (Mr. Bedford is a turtle—a pet that once had belonged to the couple.) Most of Godwin's short stories focus on a woman writer. In Amanuensis, for instance, a college girl offers herself as a helper to a successful novelist, and then provides information that is used by an old lover to produce a mean, vengeful book about the novelist. There's a relaxed, leisurely air about Godwin's writing that is rare these days when violence, omnipresent in movies and TV, is too often the focus of contemporary fiction as well. (Viking, $14.95)

From Our Partners