A novel set in the glamorous world of 1950s New York publishing; the story of a young man tasked with editing a steamy bodice-ripper based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg—an assignment that will reveal the true cost of entering that seductive, dangerous new world.
... witty, recursive, and complex — one could say meta — but also heartfelt. Sincerity has rarely been this much fun ... This novel completely captures the flannel suit decade ... If this novel’s ending seems too tidily wrapped up, and it does, it’s a small misstep in this accomplished work of fiction.
Like instruments in a string quartet, the scene’s syncopated dialogue and vivid description play off each other, seamlessly, rhythmically, as the narrative shifts back and forth, from the execution coverage to the puerile TV sitcoms, and from the sardonic comments of Simon’s parents to his own confused sense of things ... the prevailing tone in The Vixen is more lively than somber, for this is the story of Simon Putnam, a disarming narrator familiar from countless novels of youth and inexperience ... makes a detour into Gothic pastiche. The diversion is, however, mercifully brief ... a pleasingly intricate plot that hinges, inevitably, on lies and betrayal, both personal and political. There are spies here, and traitors. But in the richly textured place and time that Ms. Prose portrays with her usual skill, there are few clear distinctions.
No one states problems more correctly, more astutely, more amusingly and more uncomfortably than Francine Prose. If there were a George Bernard Shaw Prize for Crisp Compassion and Amused Disappointment in the Species, Prose would have won it many times over ... Prose writes sentences that make me laugh out loud. Her insights, the subtle ones and the two-by-fours, make me shake my head in despair, in surprise, in heartfelt agreement. The gift of her work to a reader is to create for us what she creates for her protagonist: the subtle unfolding, the moment-by-moment process of discovery as we read and change, from not knowing and even not wanting to know or care, to seeing what we had not seen and finding our way to the light of the ending.