The Knowledge of Water
"Stunning," said The New York Times Book Review of Sarah Smith's historical mystery, The Vanished Child, "Tells a grim tale of murder and duplicity in stately prose that subtly enhances the psychological horror." Now with The Knowledge of Water, Sarah Smith delves even more deeply into the realm of deception, forgery, and menace that she has made so uniquely her own. Set in Paris during the devastating flood of 1910, and redolent of the colorful bohemian atmosphere of the time, The Knowledge of Water is a lush, complex, beautifully written novel about the consuming pleasures of passion and the obsessive perils of art. Three years ago, the enigmatic Alexander von Reisden proposed to the young and very lovely Perdita Halley on a train between Boston and New York. Though initially accepting, Perdita later declined, fearing that marriage would compromise her dream of becoming a concert pianist. Now Perdita has come to study at the famous Conservatoire in Paris, the endlessly romantic city where Reisden heads an institute that specializes in diagnosis of the insane. Little suspecting the depths of each other's desires, and defying social convention, Perdita and Alexander plunge into an erotic, all-consuming affair that seems destined for tragedy. For Perdita cannot marry and attend the Conservatoire; and Alexander remains haunted by guilt and a dark secret from the past. Then an American acquaintance arrives, turning mere gossip into grand scandal. As incessant rain pours down on the city of light, an intricate network of plots and counterplots swirl around the couple. Perdita's friend, the eccentric writer, Milly Xico, hatches a plot of sweet revenge against her former husband. And a deliciously elegant game of art and life turns deadly serious as a madman stalks first Alexander and then Perdita, threatening to destroy them both in retribution for a murder they know nothing about--or do they? Sarah Smith has the born novelist's gift of creating a world more real, more compelling, than our own--a world of fascinating, intimately realized characters, strangely deceptive appearances, and mounting suspense. In The Knowledge of Water, Sarah Smith gives us that rare reading experience--a novel as intelligent in its style as it is haunting in its revelation.
New York : Ballantine Books, 1996.
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