The plot of The Ravishing of Lol Stein focuses almost entirely on the passions of the central characters and on the narrator’s attempts to understand the history of the enigmatic Lol. Stripped of climax and denouement, the story elevates memory and sexual tension over physical action.
Lol Stein, a reserved young woman, is engaged to Michael Richardson, a well-to-do young man. At a ball, he abandons Lol for a mysterious older woman, named Anne-Marie Stretter, with whom he dances all night, and with whom he finally leaves. Lol’s friend Tatiana Karl tries to comfort her, but Lol is so shocked at this rejection that she faints and her mother has to come retrieve her. Michael later leaves for India with Anne-Marie, and Lol goes through a period of extreme depression. One day, while on a walk, she meets John Bedford, who is intrigued by her withdrawn behavior. He falls in love with her and proposes; she accepts and they move to Uxbridge.
After ten years of a relatively uneventful life, they move back to South Tahla. Lol spends most of her time setting up her house, much as she had at Uxbridge, but she begins to go out on long, meandering walks. The narrator says that he sometimes follows her on these walks, without her knowing it. While walking, Lol apparently reminisces about her tragic experience at the ball. One day she sees a pair of lovers pass and seems to recognize the woman. Later, she follows the man; he meets the woman, who turns out to be her old friend Tatiana, and the couple goes to a hotel (which Lol and Michael had frequented). Lol stays outside in a field, spying on the figures until after dark. Eventually, Lol decides to visit Tatiana, pretending not to have seen her earlier; at Tatiana’s house, she also meets Tatiana’s husband, Dr. Peter Breugner, and the man who is Tatiana’s lover, Jack Hold. At this point, the narrator reveals that he is Jack, and the reader realizes that all along the narrator has been aware of Lol.
Later, Jack and Lol declare their mutual desire, and Jack says that he...
(The entire section is 555 words.)