New novel restages classic ‘Rebecca’

Rachel Pastan (c) Carina Romano

Author To Speak in Cobble Hill

Famed author Meg Wolitzer described Rachel Pastan’s debut novel “This Side of Married” as “a wedding bouquet of great wit and affection” and Booklist praised it as “smart and insightful.”  Pastan followed that up with the novel “Lady of the Snakes” in 2008, of which NPR’s Maureen Corrigan declared: “I was hooked from the opening scene” and the Washington Post observed: “Pastan’s writing is fluid and frank, and her characters are luminescent.”

Since then, the graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop found herself working at a small contemporary art museum, allowing her to explore the intersection of the art and literary worlds.  And her new colleagues, who kept invoking her predecessor in the job, also provided the inspiration for her stunning new novel, “Alena” (Riverhead Books), which she will discuss in Cobble Hill on Feb. 20 at BookCourt.

“Alena,” in which a young curator finds herself haunted by the legacy of her predecessor at an art museum on Cape Cod, is a brilliant restaging of Daphne du Maurier’s classic, “Rebecca”—one of the most popular novels of the 20th century and later an Academy Award-winning Hitchcock film—as well as a stirring exploration of beauty, envy and the nature of originality.

With her evocative prose, Pastan matches the hothouse tension of Du Maurier’s story while infusing “Alena” with its own hairpin twists and turns and devastating denouement. She draws upon her own experience to wonderful effect, giving readers entree into the alluring and sometimes disconcerting world of avant-garde art and artists. The result is a lyrical murder mystery that is just as tantalizing to those who have never read “Rebecca” as the many for whom it is a cherished classic.


Image courtesy of Riverhead Books
Image courtesy of Riverhead Books

From a dazzling inside look at the Venice Biennale to the inner workings of a cutting-edge museum set on a moody and atmospheric Cape Cod, Pastan offers a window into a world of scintillating artistic, erotic, and emotional entanglements.  Haunted and haunting, “Alena” is an inspired and provocative story that explores creative and romantic rivalry and the blurred borderline between art and artist.

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The Feb. 20 event will begin at 7 p.m. BookCourt is located at 163 Court St. in Cobble Hill

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Rachel Pastan is the author of two previous novels, “Lady of the Snakes” and “This Side of Married,” and has won numerous prizes for her short fiction. A member of the core faculty of the Bennington Writing Seminars, she is also Editor-at-Large for the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, where she writes the blog Miranda.


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