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Before by Irini Spanidou
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Before is set in SoHo in the 1970s, and Irini Spanidou does a wonderful job placing the reader directly in the story. You can see the empty factories, the vacant blocks, the few factory-to-loft conversion projects, and the new bars popping up here and there. You can see that the area is seedy before she mentions the robberies, rapes, and muggings. You know this is a neighborhood full of interesting people with interesting stories.

Spanidou creates a host of promising characters, but Before lacks any plot to carry them forward. It seems the book is more of a character study, and the reader is forced to watch Beatrice grapple with depression, hysteria, and anxiety attacks and do a lot of thinking about how her life needs to change. But she isn’t motivated to take any action. If the character isn’t motivated to act on something–anything–how do you build tension or resolve any conflicts?

Full review at Diary of an Eccentric. ( )
  annaeccentric | Jul 17, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375413812, Hardcover)

From the author of God’s Snake (“Passionate . . . a wonderful book”—Alice Munro), and Fear (“Remarkable, spare, powerful”—Grace Paley), a stunning novel, her first in seven years, that shines a light on what it means to be beautiful, and to be possessed—by oneself, and by others.

The setting is New York City in the 1970s—a time and place of creativity, licentiousness, rebellion—and unforeseen perils. At its center is Beatrice: twenty-five, mesmerizingly lovely and intelligent, at once conventional and different from everyone else, married to Ned, a talented but volatile painter whose obsession with her has turned to hatred.

Beatrice is desired by everyone around her: by Faye, her seductive, bawdy childhood friend; by Cyril, a lonely, charismatic Vietnam veteran; by Colin, an aspiring musician; by Simon, a cynical older man she meets at a bar; by Chris, a young heroin addict. And then there is Perkins, the oddly threatening man next door. A sliver of light from his apartment shines in on Beatrice, a light that in her darkest hours reminds her she is not alone.

Unfolding with the powerful compression of a myth, Before offers a daring portrait of three months in the life of a young woman fighting for her identity—and her survival. It is a combustible cocktail of Eros, longing, and menace, one that captures a dizzying time in America.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:56 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In 1970s New York City, beautiful, twenty-five-year-old Beatrice is married to a talented painter whose obsession with her has turned to hatred, all the while dealing with a seductive childhood friend, a lonely Vietnam veteran, and Perkins, the enigmatic, menacing man next door.… (more)

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