Accumulating prizes and accolades for two previous novels in his native Britain, Buchan (A Parish of Rich Women, 1985; The Golden Plough, 1995) has yet to find similar attention here, and this tale of frustrated romance and bad business in Thatcherland will help his case only slightly. It's 1987, and the beautiful and eminently capable Jane Haddon is the queen of undergarments, having rescued yet another failing British industry from oblivion by dint of her own drive and acumen. But her miracle-working touch is about to suffer its severest test— in persuading the women who work in an aging bra-factory outside Glasgow to exchange part of their wages for company shares or face losing their jobs. Meanwhile, Jane's personal life, on ice since she divorced her aloof aristocrat husband years before, shows little evidence of thawing, since she still loves the cad; but when he's marooned on a glacier in Antarctica (where he's flown to give himself something to do), he rediscovers his love for her, saves himself, and returns to England, only to find that he faces financial ruin. As a ``Name'' at Lloyd's, he bears the brunt of insurance reversals; one such event leaves him nearly bankrupt, whereupon his money-loving wife leaves him. Jane can't help him much because her bra ladies have gone on strike just as details of her own sordid past—heroin addiction, working-class origins, etc.- -turn her from a media darling into a pariah without peer. Nevertheless, she and her lord manage to offer each other some consolation, eventually finding their way back to his favorite spot on earth (the glacier), although by that time he's just a corpse wrapped in a parachute. To be sure, the sordid details of late-'80s convulsive capitalism are used here to form a precise, withering critique of Thatcher's England. But this dissection of British corporate life and its practitioners leaves scant room for more human touches that would make something other than icily insightful.
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