Cover image for Subject to change
Subject to change
Gould, Lois.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus & Giroux, [1988]

Physical Description:
201 pages ; 23 cm
Format :

On Order



This lyrical, monstrously inventive novel, set in an imaginary Renaissance, features five characters who revolve in changing configurations: Henry an unwilling, fearful ruler; Diane, his beautiful, cunning mistress; Catherine, his sallow, desperate queen; and Morgantina, Catherine's dwarf, armed with brilliance, wit and magic. When Cornelius, a dabbler in dangerous arts, arrives to make his fortune, the court is crumbling -- an opportunity to sieze the power he craves.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In La Presidenta (Booklist 77:1126 Ap 15 81), Gould wrote a political novel-specifically about the power and mystique of a Latin American dictator's consort (a la Eva Peron). Her latest novel is political in nature, too, but much more farcical in approach. Alternating in tone between silly and satiric, she offers a fantasy set in Europe in the heyday of kings and queens. The king, his mistress, the queen, her dwarf companion, and a dabbler in black arts who comes to court to see what he can get for himself all jockey for the upper hand in solving the great problem besetting court and country: the begetting of a royal heir. How this dilemma works its effect on all of these individuals constitutes a romp full of intrigue, self-serving actions, and power plays. The sleight-of-hand ways and means characteristic of the royal beehive's closed society are sliced open with humor and political discernment. Far less serious but more acerbic than Tom de Haan's Mirror for Princes (see above). BH.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gould is a writer who determinedly resists pigeonholing and in each book strikes out in fresh directions. After several early, waspish social comedies, she offered a much more profound, subtle psychological novel in A Sea Change, then a hallucinatory study of sex and power in La Presidenta. Now she has turned fabulist. Subject to Change is a gorgeously written but puzzling fairy story for adults, set in an enchanted never-never land and starring a declining king, his restless wife, his aging but irresistible mistress, an all-purpose female dwarf who is a kind of bitter chorus and a wandering scholar-adventurer-magician who enters all their lives. At first one hopes the book is perhaps a deeply pondered satire on the present age, but there seem to be no real points of connection. This is simply word-spinningoften magical in its skill, with suggestions of the rich decadence of Oscar Wilde's fairy talesbut ultimately empty. It's impossible not to admire Gould's daring in trying for something so very different from anything she has done; but it's equally impossible not to be disappointed at seeing so keen a mind, and such craft, expended on a glittering bauble. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

. $16.95. f In Gould's imaginary northern European kingdom, the fitful gleams of the Renaissance only accentuate the Dark Age contours of her characters: a weak boy-king, his neurotic queen, her dwarf, the king's mistress, and a fortune-hunting magician. Each is unscrupulous, each driven by lust (of one kind or another), each subject to radical change. Change is a major theme, though plot is not the point of this post-modernist work (most of the ending is detailed on page 38). The novel's arts and tricks are in fact more magical than the court trumpery it describes, its very intricacies are its own reflexive excuse for being. Thus language, forever subject to change, is the capricious but controlling subject of this changeling novel. Patricia Dooley, formerly with Drexel Univ., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.