Books: Wildly Alive

SPINSTER (242 pp.)—Sylvia Ashton-Warner—Simon & Schuster ($3.75).

This first novel by a woman in her forties is an astonishing work, one of the few rewarding books of a so-so season. The spinster of the title is Anna Vorontosov, a schoolteacher in back-country New Zealand. She is a small woman of uncertain age, whose passions are still young because she has never used them. Gifted but a little balmy, Anna primes herself for school each morning with half a tumbler of brandy, frequently gets the weeps, talks persuasively to trees and flowers, has stupendous headaches...

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