September 28, 1981 12:00 PM

by D.M. Thomas

First published two years ago, before the success of Thomas’ The White Hotel, this first novel—like his new best-seller—is a rich, erotic tale of a woman surviving in an often cruel, irrational world. The flute-player of the title is variously an office worker, servant, dancer and prostitute. Her real role, though, is earth mother to a circle of artists and writers at bay in an unspecified modern state where freedom and oppression fall in and out of fashion like skirt lengths. The book confirms that Thomas, an English poet and teacher, is one of the most original of today’s novelists. (Dutton, $8.95)

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