The most recent reprint in LSU's impressive "Voices of the South" series
is Valerie Martin's Set in Motion. In 1978, when the novel was published,
Anatole Broyard, writing in the New York Times, described the book as "an
acute first novel." Twenty-three years later, Set in Motion, is a powerful
reminder of a young woman's sexuality in a pre-AIDS society. Helene
Thatcher, the narrator of the novel, is a precursor to both "Ally McBeal"
and the women in "Sex in the City".
Having dropped out of the academic world, Helene now works for the city of
New Orleans in the welfare offices. Her supervisors praise Helene for her
efficient and dispassionate attitude. While she comes in contact with
despair and chaos on a daily basis, no one in the office is aware of the
dark side of Helene's life. She's slept with her academic advisor's
fiancé/husband, considers a
drug addict to be her boyfriend, and her best friend's husband is stalking
her. Helene's coping mechanism is fragile. Her lifestyle is gritty,
erotic, and detached.
In lesser hands, Helene Thatcher would be a throwaway character. Valerie
Martin makes her a young woman with the hope and potential for
transformation. Helene's moral compass may have gone awry but her center
Valerie Martin was born in Missouri and grew up in New Orleans. She
currently resides in upstate New York. She has written six novels --
including Mary Reilly and A Recent Martyr -- two short story
collections and a biography of St. Francis.
- Southern Scribe Reviews
© 2001 Southern Scribe, All