Though now widely known for her screenplay of A Room with a View, Jhabvala's literary reputation still rests on her subtle fiction grounded in psychological authenticity. This long novel, set in New York, London and India, is a penetrating psychological study of a young woman generously endowed with breeding and money but starved of self-esteem and purpose. Jhabvala describes the emotional seduction of Harriet Wishwell by the members of a fanatic religious sect, the Fourth World Movement, as well as her physical seduction by one of its leaders. Harriet and her homosexual twin brother Michael are equally drawn to charismatic Crishi, who marries Harriet for the huge inheritance she'll receive on her 21st birthday. Crishi and his cohorts are swindlers and dope pushers, activities they hide behind the movement's pious facade. Jhabvala's evocation of their smarmy appeal is a masterpiece of its kind, as is her portrayal of the restlessness of young people searching for an emotional haven. But Harriet's innocence, credulity and passivity are too broadly drawn; the reader becomes exasperated, wanting to shake sense into her obtuse brain. As Harriet and Michael are used, abused and humiliated, mulcted of their money and their self-respect, the narrative becomes tedious, and the ending is sadly predictable. (August 18)
Michael and Harriet Wishwell are soulmates as well as twins. Born into wealth and privilege, they are seeking something higher in life. Their youthful idealism leads them to the Rawul, a guru whose Fourth World movement is working for ``one world where everyone is united and no more wars.'' Unbeknownst to them, financial problems have forced the movement to raise capital illegally. Now movement leaders anxiously await the twins' 21st birthday so that they can commandeer the Wishwell inheritance. Harriet's passive acceptance of the situation ultimately causes her to forsake her brother. Set in New York, London, and India, this is a work of passion and obsession by the noted German-Indian novelist and screenwriter. In this ambitious undertaking she effectively evokes the climate of a movement but fails to create sympathetic characters. Kimberly G. Allen, Supreme Court Lib., Washington, D.C.