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The arrival of Valerie Martin's first novel brought rave reviews and sounded the themes that would inform such later major works as Mary Reilly, The Great Divorce, and Salvation: the fragility of the physical world, the gritty details of employment, and the possibilities, however slim, of transformation and liberty. Helene Thatcher, the young woman narrator of Set in Motion, works - not at the academic post to which she once aspired, but in the welfare offices of the city of New Orleans, a world of bureaucratic forms, files, bad air-conditioning, and departmental regulations. The chaos and despair that rule the lives of the people Helene serves are mirrored in her own life on the trendier side of town. Her lovers are given to casual violence and drugs; a friend toys, seductively, with insanity. Detached, erotic, Helene is a young heroine who is coping, barely.

Set in motion.

  • Valerie Martin
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