Annunciation Critical Essays

David Plante


(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

-ANNUNCIATION is a complex novel about the need for faith in a dark modern world. Unlike David Plante’s previous novels, it is quasi-allegorical and highly plotted. Its narrative focuses on two characters who do not meet until midway through the novel. Both characters are desperately unhappy; both rely on will and rationality to see them through life. The trajectory of ANNUNCIATION follows these two as their search for a rare painting leads them towards an affirmation of their shared Catholic heritage.

It is only several years after the suicide of Claire O’Connel’s atheist husband. Claire is horrified one day to be told by her teenaged daughter Rachel that she has been raped on her way home from school. Rachel’s reaction to the rape is to withdraw into herself and become willful and stubborn. She decides to have the baby rather than abort and to drop out of school for a year. Claire can only encourage her daughter in her willfulness, having no other sustenance to offer her. Yet she secretly worries that Rachel, ignorant of the facts of her father’s death, will ultimately also take her own life.

Claude Ricard is a young editor of art books leading a busy but unfocused New York existence. Of Russian ancestry, he feels no sense of his past, and his rootlessness troubles him. An affair with Penelope Madge, a blase English journalist, brings out a dark, sadistic side of him that deeply frightens Claude. His despair is exacerbated by the...

(The entire section is 541 words.)