The girl who trod on a loaf

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Knopf, May 25, 1993 - Fiction - 399 pages
1 Review
A young woman in flight from her past, and an old woman whose secrets are contained in the grave . . . With this configuration Kathryn Davis, the acclaimed author of Labrador, begins a novel of true bravura - about opera, Denmark, adultery, and murder. In upstate New York, Frances Thorn waits tables in a diner, despite her privileged, educated background, and raises her twin daughters without the presence or even a memory of their father. But these puzzling circumstances are made stranger still, and inalterably changed, when she meets an elderly Danish woman named Helle Ten Brix, a renowned but esoteric composer now living with relatives in the same small town. At the heart of this peculiar friendship is a folktale, later retold by Hans Christian Andersen, about a prideful girl: rather than ruin her new shoes while crossing the treacherous bogs, she uses the loaf of bread intended as a present for her parents as a stepping-stone - only to be condemned for her arrogance to a horrible fate, trapped at the bottom of the bog forever. She is also the subject of Helle's final opera, left unfinished at her death and willed, along with the rest of her music, to Frances. From this curious legacy Frances must not only unravel the mysteries of the composer's life and work, but also confront the sorrow they have come to share. The story of two very different women contending with themselves and with each other, this is as well a short course in the opera, a kind of sexual history of the twentieth century, and a philosophical - even religious - passage from despair toward redemption. In the perfection of its language, in its dignity and wit, a novel at once sophisticated, humane, and whollyremarkable.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - DieFledermaus - LibraryThing

This is a well-written book with some plotting issues. Like many books, it has some parts that take place in the present and some in the past and the past parts are better than the contemporary ones ... Read full review


User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Davis's second novel is as lyrically intense as Labrador (1988) and is also set in a cold, remote landscape—heightening the operatic passions of this dense, fabulistic invention. A magical evocation ... Read full review


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About the author (1993)

Kathryn Davis is also the author of novels, "The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf" & "Hell." The recipient of a Kafka Prize, she teaches at Skidmore College & lives with her husband & their daughter in Vermont.

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