3.5 starsThe premise of Conversations with Mr. Prain is very intriguing, and Taylor's verbal wordplay is wonderfully executed here—one would hardly think that this was her first novel as one begins reading. However, this soon devolves and the very witty verbal banter between Stella, a bookseller and writer, and Mr. Prain, a publisher, becomes laden with ejaculatory statements that are somewhat juvenile, especially when considered amid the very fascinating debates about aesthetics, the artist as prophet, the culture of commodity, etc.About three-quarters of the way through, I felt that Conversations was taking a dangerous route; I even thought I would be reviewing this briefly and calling it some Fifty Shades of Grey for bibliophiles (not that I've read that, but just going on what I've heard). With that said, and without giving anything away, I think that Taylor was wise to end the novel in the way that she did: although I can see how some people might feel differently, I think this was a wise choice on her part. The only thing I wish she had done was to tighten the middle of the novel slightly and make its pace less brooding and more in tune with the very quick and alluringly seductive beginning, complete with its ars poetica. It is when Taylor turns to actual seduction that the seduced reader—at least this one—felt an original work become contrived and fall back into the constraints and perils of genre conventions.