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Prodigy: A novella
by Nancy Huston
ISBN 1552782360 / 9781552782361 / 1-55278-236-0
Publisher McArthur & Co / Mcarthur (Tp,H
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Prodigy is a return of sorts for Nancy Huston: her stunning first novel, The Goldberg Variations, takes its form from a performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations in a Parisian apartment, and Prodigy is illuminated by the spirit of a Bach-loving girl. Music is a perfect foundation for Huston's fictions. Writing in English and French, she may be an even more bilingual writer than Samuel Beckett, and the non-verbal modes of music make an effective counterpoint to her ambiguous linguistic affinities.
Huston's fleeting novella is a fragmentary, poetic work that instantly recalls the recent work of writers such as Anne Hébert. Perpetually leaping from perspective to perspective, Prodigy tells the story of the early years of Maya Mestral, a girl born prematurely to a half-disillusioned French piano teacher. Maya's mother transfers all her hopes onto her tiny child and loves Maya insistently. Instead of becoming another Freudian bundle of neuroses, though, Maya comes vehemently to life, mastering the piano with uncanny grace and tumbling through the world with fervid, lucid delirium. Her mother, on the other hand, lapses in her daughter's wake, gradually losing herself entirely. Prodigy is not Huston's most important work, but it is a strong, graceful novella that manages to be intimate and idealistic without sliding into the saccharine sentimentality that its subject matter implies. A seductive little book, it should draw many more readers to Huston's more challenging works. --Jack Illingworth [via]