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Sylvia Fraser

Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1989. 261pp, paper, $5.95
ISBN 0-7710-9959-2. (New Canadian Library series). CIP

Reviewed by Paul R. Birch.

Volume 18 Number 2
1990 March

Pandora gives us a glimpse of the grown-up world as seen through eyes about three or four feet off the ground.

Pandora Gothic, the precocious protagonist of Pandora, participates in the complicated rituals of primary school - the jealousies, the passions, the games. But she has another, darker side to her life, as well. She and a friend discuss with wonder the relative sizes of what an exhibitionist has flashed at them and the crotch of a statue in the park. She reaches through the hole in the bottom of the breadman's pocket to "pat the nice puppy." She and her little girlfriend lick and embrace each other's naked bodies in a mucky pond of slime and frog-spawn.

Where is the childlike joy in an emerging universe? Pandora sees the sordid ness, the scatological details, the depravity of humanity. There is not a single redeeming male figure in the book and very few females who are anything but contemptible accomplice-victims in a world set against them.

Perhaps this perspective is the outworking of Sylvia Eraser's own hurt and anger, explained (even justified) by her later book, In My Father's House: A Memoir of Incest and Healing (Doubleday, 1987).

Although the language of Pandora is imaginative and poetic, even touched by beauty when it is not too self-conscious, the final impression is of a jewelled snake crushed into the mud by the passing traffic. Unlike her mythical namesake. Pandora doesn't release all manner of plagues upon the world; she gives convincing evidence of them and has taken on the task of cataloguing a good percentage of them.

Paul R. Birch, Sutherland Secondary School, North Vancouver, B.C.
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