EW Staff
January 12, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST

THE DROWNING ROOM Michael Pye (Viking, $22.95) The author of this small, jewel-like novel is a historian who, when he was writing a biography of New York, happened upon the story of a 17th-century Dutch woman named Gretja Reyniers. The few details that were available about her sparked his imagination, and he has now managed to bring her to life in this period novel that cuts back and forth between the Amsterdam of Holland and the New Amsterdam of America. The energy of Pye’s narrative is wisely channeled into a panoramic rendering of Gretja’s early life in Holland, where she lives by her wits as a maid, a fishmonger’s assistant, and a whore until she meets a man called the Turk whom she follows to America. Anyone who writes a novel that takes place in a bygone century is saddled with the difficulty of finding an authentic voice. Most often, this is nearly impossible to do, but Pye, like Jeanette Winterson, succeeds largely because everything he tells is filtered through the poetic lens of an elegiac style. A-

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