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Three Delightfully ephemeral Novels

APPASSIONATA by Fannie Hurst. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. 1926 $2.

By Cecil B. Lyon

PERHAPS it was the name "Appassionata" that caught my eye, for it suggested glimpses of Spain. I might have survived the disappointment of discovering that the plot, far from being laid in the land of Marquitas and Pedros, found its origin much closer home in the city of Rachaels and Izzys, had it not been that it was laid in that section of New York which I have never been able to abide, the West Side. To me that strip of Manhattan north of Columbus Circle which pries in betwen Central Park and the Hudson River, is suggestive of all that is depressing and all that is unromantic in the world's largest city.

Miss Hurst's style is irritating. Constant repetition and a confusing habit of referring to the narrator as "You," drive the reader quite frantic. One is forced to admit that one is impressed by the personal use of you, but when one finds page after page of "You, Laura Regan, the bride, His." "God. You. Beloved" one becomes depressed as Miss Hurst herself would express it, by "The tedium. The tedium. The tedium."

The plot, however, is as unusual as it is interesting. It deals with the psychological problem of Luara Regan, who, anxious to marry, but not in the physical sense of the word, on the eve of her marriage to Dudley, is shown by a miracle that her happiness lies only in becoming a bride of the Church, "His Bride," and so enters a convent. Miss Hurst has very definite ideas on the emotions through which Laura progresses to her ultimate goal. These she reveals in a most powerful but, to mind, unpleasant manner.

Most of the characters, however, are exceptionally well drawn, and though I never felt quite as if that gaunt, depressing "house in 82d Street" really existed, I found no difficulty in picturing to myself Mother Regan "to whom no one ever spoke"; Father "his head hung out in front like a lantern"; Frank Stella, and even Dudley. These people do exist. They are not, however, every day characters. Even Laura seems to have a human passion or desire, and one wonders how Dudley, a perfectly ordinary chap, with natural impulses and emotions, ever came to fall so deeply in love with this unresponsive angel. This I consider one of the fundamental weaknesses of Appassionata:" it is not logical.

In her treatment of this delicate problem, Miss Hurst will undoubtedly displease and even offend many, yet in spite of the fact that one may not care for her setting her characters, or her style, one must congratulate her upon this work which has, above all else, originality.

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