In 1940 California, a philandering, middle-aged biologist rapes a 15-year-old girl, and she falls in love with him. The heroine, Margot Fiske, works for the biologist, Ed Ricketts, drawing pictures of marine animals. In fairness, he thinks that she’s twenty, but it’s still statutory rape. Even after he knows her age, he rapes her again.
This novel has a pretty thin plot. There’s no real story, as in a journey to achieve a goal, or a progression of events that leads to a conclusion. There’s a semblance of a goal, to build an aquarium in Monterey Bay, but that’s accomplished in four pages, and it can only happen at night because of the tide. That’s a plot hole, because there are two high tides and two low tides every day.
There’s good character development, though. The author presents the heroine as a precocious, smart-ass teenager who is wise beyond her years. At fifteen, she understands such supply-and-demand economics as: “he effectively profits from every part of the production process.” Later she says, “Jung is even worse than Victor Hugo.” She’s also a Civil-War historian: “You should be flattered. Sherman was ruthless.” She’s a remarkable young lady, even more curious that she would fall for her own rapist.
It’s a challenge to read. The author expects a lot from the reader. Pronouns have no antecedents. There are so many non-sentences that it’s distracting. There are expressions like, “It was the most unsubtle hour of the morning.” What hour was that? “The scenery became inert” means the car stopped.
The knowledgeable historical reader will wonder why the heroine’s family was driven from the Philippines by air raids in 1940. The Japanese didn’t invade the Philippines until 1942. Not recommended.