The Ivory Swing is Juliet’s book. Its rhythms are determined by her moods, its language by the exuberance of her imagination, and its events by her driving compulsion to act. The other characters are important only in relation to her or in the reflections they provide of her dilemmas. Juliet’s energy and intelligence give the book its strength; both her self-pity and her self-indulgence define its limitations.
Despite the centrality of Juliet, Janette Turner Hospital’s use of an omniscient narrator enables her to portray the thoughts of other significant characters at key moments, including those of David, Annie, Prem, Shivaraman Nair, and Matthew Thomas. These characters, while remaining subordinate to Juliet, take on individual lives of their own and enrich Hospital’s portrayal of the complexity of moral decision-making in a crosscultural context. Particularly moving are Matthew Thomas’ efforts to bridge the cultural gaps because Juliet’s obvious outsider status reminds him painfully of his daughter Kumari’s exile in Burlington, Vermont.
The glimpses into the other men’s minds seem more perfunctory. They work to confirm Juliet’s assessments rather than to reveal new insights into character. Chapter 21, recording David’s visit to the Hindu temple, is narrated almost entirely from his point of view yet serves chiefly to confirm Juliet’s view of her isolation, even employing the same metaphors for her entrapment...
(The entire section is 512 words.)