Dangerous obsession haunts ‘Bay of Foxes’

07/15/2012 5:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:11 AM

Who is the prey in Sheila Kohler’s new psychological thriller, “The Bay of Foxes” (Penguin, 207 pages, $15 paper)? The author won’t give it away.

“The violence is suggested from the start when a young and indigent (Ethiopian) immigrant meets an older and wealthy French writer in a Parisian cafe in the spring,” she said in an e-mail interview.

Dawit, the young man, moves in with M., the writer, who showers him with all the comforts of wealth he knew as child, before the upheaval in Ethiopia led to his imprisonment. He becomes her secretary as well as her object of obsession, an interesting dynamic because Dawit is gay. When they go to her villa, on the Bay of Foxes in Sardinia, the story takes a turn.

Power, wealth, race and the baggage of colonialism all figure in this dark, psychological novel.

Kohler, the author of several respected novels and award-winning short fiction, was born in South Africa and educated in Paris. She moved to the U.S. in 1981 and now lives in New York. In addition to writing, she teaches at Princeton University and Bennington College.

Library Journal has called Kohler’s writing “sensual and elegant.”

Kohler had more to say about her latest novel:

Where is the “Bay of Foxes”?

Cala di Volpe is a real place on the island of Sardinia. It also suggests the hunter and the hunt.

Your heroine is an older French writer, a woman who becomes obsessed with a young, homosexual Ethiopian man. Is it clear who has more “power”?

No. They both have power of one kind or another: youth and good looks and charm versus money and fame.

The novel is being likened to Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Does that give anything away?

The theme of identity lies at the heart of this book as it does in Patricia Highsmith’s.

You’ve said you liked the movie version of your novel “Cracks.” Are any other films in serious development?

Not so far but I think this one would make an excellent film. Let us hope!

There are also, of course, many versions of “Jane Eyre” which was the inspiration for my book, “Becoming Jane Eyre.”

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