The Shape I Gave You
The night before she leaves to give a recital in another city, Ulrike Huguenot, a young pianist, arrives at her Berlin apartment planning to spend a relaxing evening there. Instead, she finds, stuffed in her mailbox, an unexpected and unwelcome letter. It is from Beatrice Mann, a Canadian sculptor, a friend of her father, Gustave, and also, Ulrike believes, his lover. What could this woman possibly have to say to her? And why now, seven years after her father's death? "I'm writing to you because my daughter has died," begins Beatrice's extraordinary letter of confession. Her only child, Ines, has been killed at the age of eighteen, and Beatrice has closed herself in her Toronto studio. Unable to speak openly with her grieving husband, Isaac, she turns to Ulrike, a young woman she barely knows. While she retells, and possibly reshapes, the past -- her obsession with the exacting and complex Gustave, and her relationship with her elusive, now vanished, daughter -- Isaac sets out on a journey of his own. As Ulrike reads about Beatrice's life and Gustave's role in it, she reluctantly revisits the world of her own memories and starts to see her present in an altered light. In The Shape I Gave You, acclaimed novelist and poet Martha Baillie explores the complex relationships between parents and children, men and women, to create a novel of spare elegance that gives piercing insight into the nature of confession and how we choose who to ask for absolution.
Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2006.
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