The last novel from British writer Barber, but the first to be published under his own name, is a grab-bag of 1980's issues served up by overwrought characters in overblown prose. Set in mid-Eighties Britain, the story begins as middle-aged Dolly finally admits that it's all over with husband Marcus and leaves London for her country cottage. There, she will find herself, forget Marcus, and write that great novel—although so far she's written only cookbooks and a few short stories, without evidence of either culinary or literary interest. Meanwhile: Marcus, a wistful and somewhat nebulous character, has decided he must be gay and has moved in with young Lenny. Daughter Lindy, a performer of political theater and an anti-nuclear campaigner, is not too happy with either of her parents. And Dolly meets a local group of hippies—among them the ailing Clodagh, a talented knitter who fears that the American cruise missiles at a nearby base will make a "world without woolshops." Eventually, however, Dolly, inspired by Clodagh, begins her novel; Marcus finds his vocation when he sets up an AIDS foundation in memory of a former lover; and Lindy, arrested at a rally, makes a sort of peace with her parents—though the world, we understand, is apparently not yet safe for knitting. With its old issues, politically correct smugness, and cardboard characters, Barber's novel, like most fiction permeated with polemic, has little to offer beyond the causes its characters must espouse. Certainly dated—and often tiresome.
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