Mrs. Reinhardt by Edna O’Brien, 1978
The magic trick:
Taking the reader off their guard by seemingly putting to rest their concerns
So we pick up where yesterday’s story left off. “Number Ten” told the tale of Mrs. Reinhardt’s marital difficulties. The title story moves the timeline along a few months, as we follow Mrs. Reinhardt, now grieving her separation, on a romantic weekend for one at a resort.
I’m going to write about a magic trick that is very much beside the point for today’s story. There are many, many reasons why “Mrs. Reinhardt” is a wonderful story. I’m not writing about one of those reasons. Why not? I just don’t want to. This is what I want to write about, and the SSMT website answers to no one.
Now then, O’Brien plays a nasty trick on the reader in this story. She calms any concerns we might have about the bounder who shows up, wooing our protagonist. The story baldly lays out his ulterior motives. Mrs. Reinhardt considers that he might even be a burglar. The mere mention of it seems to eliminate it as a possibility. It’s a little bit like Agatha Christie making the obvious suspect too obvious before turning around and revealing that yes, in fact, the obvious suspect was the culprit.
Or something like that.
And that’s quite a trick on O’Brien’s part.
“Real,” he said, picking up the green beads that she herself had become so involved with, and had been so intimate with.
“Think so,” she said and regretted it instantly. After all the world did abound in thieves and rogues and ten thousand pounds and was no joke to be carrying around. She had read of women such as she, who took up with men, younger men or older men, only to be robbed, stripped of their possession, bled. She curdled within and suddenly invented for herself a telephone call back at the hotel. When she excused herself he rose chivalrously, escorted her through the door, down the steps, and across the gravel path to the car park. They did not kiss good night.
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