Picks and Pans Review: Banishing Verona

UPDATED 12/20/2004 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/20/2004 at 01:00 AM EST

By Margot Livesey

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Livesey's second novel is a great solo read, but it's also the perfect selection for book-group groupies who love dissecting ambiguities. Zeke, 29, is a London-based accountant who becomes a housepainter after he suffers a mental breakdown. Within minutes of answering the door to a woman claiming to be the niece of the couple he's working for, he's a changed man. Verona, 37 and heavily pregnant, isn't beautiful, but it doesn't matter. "A sentence appeared in Zeke's head: I'd like to tie you to the bed. How did that get there, inside his brain, about this woman?" Verona is attracted to Zeke too, but after a single night together she disappears. The remainder of the novel addresses the question of how far we're willing to go for love—and what sort of sacrifice should be made in the name of family loyalty. Livesey's deft handling of these questions in the context of an enthralling, unconventional boy-meets-girl story is remarkable. In Banishing Verona, she weaves a story that has plenty of heft—and that challenges readers to rethink their own notions about the power of romantic love.

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