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Interesting Women: Stories
by Andrea Lee
ISBN 0812966848 / 9780812966848 / 0-8129-6684-8
Publisher Random House Trade Paperbacks
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It would be difficult to overstate the elegance of this story collection from Andrea Lee, who produces fiction and journalism for The New Yorker, among other venues. Lee's interesting women are usually Americans trying their luck in Europe; most of them are African American wives of the Italian elite. Because her subject matter is so rarified (the first story mentions cashmere two times in as many pages) and because her writing is so beautifully transparent, it seems at first that Lee is coasting on the glamour of her subject matter. Not so--these stories are every bit as well put together as the women who inhabit them. "Brothers and Sisters Around the World" is an unforgettable tale of a well-to-do black woman who vacations in Third World countries with her European husband: "on vacation we travel the world to get hotter and wilder." When the narrator impulsively slaps a teenage girl who's been flirting with her husband in a village near Madagascar, the balance of the whole island is upset, with surprising results. Lee limns race, class, and a peculiarly female ambitiousness while always keeping her language as deceptively simple and sharp as an Armani suit. --Claire Dederer [via]