More book for the penny—that's been Gaskin's approach in a string of fat family sagas like The Ambassador's Women (1986). Her newest follows the fortunes of the British Seymour dynasty—especially the highs and lows of its youngest member, Julia. Gaskin begins with a quick flashback overview of Julia's parents' marriage—mom was an internationally acclaimed concert pianist, dad an actor in the Laurence Olivier mode; the Seymours, including Julia's sisters—Alex and Connie—grow up happily peripatetic; "the frenetic twenties passed into far more sombre thirties," but in the 40's (where the story truly picks up), an RAF bomber crashes into mother Seymour's practice room, leaving father Seymour a widow and Julia in love with Jamie Sinclair—the RAF pilot who safely bails out of the fatal plane. She and Jamie, lord of a dilapidated Scottish castle, marry just after Julia makes her London stage debut (as Cordelia to her dad's Lear). But then Jamie buys the ranch on the North African front, and a pregnant Julia heads to Scotland to deliver at the castle. Meanwhile, sister Alex loses a first husband too, to a Japanese concentration camp, and sister Connie settles down with a boring accountant. Back at the castle, Julia meets a Hollywood star, Rob McCallum, who's on location for a movie. They marry, but he turns out to be a bad seed—one who gets worse under the influence of drugs. When he dies of an overdose, Scottish coppers arrest Julia for murder, but she'll end up evading the hangman. . . With its last-minute Sturm und Drang and dynastic intricacies, this should please Gaskin fans—though her prose cries out for emergency reduction measures.
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