A collection of brief, rather shallow, sentiment-tinged essays and memoirs from some noted writers. Victoria's editors have gathered almost 70 glimpses of domestic existence from the first decade of their magazine. The pieces seem to agree in feeling that life is, in fact, pretty much a bowl of cherries: The relatives here (usually female) almost always get along, children never pout, affluence is common, and spare time goes into gardening or reading or remembering what one has read. There are bright moments, as when Madeleine L'Engle notes (with the wryness that keeps her saccharine rating below this volume's average) that `` `I can't do this and keep my integrity' usually means `I cannot do this and have my own way.' '' Or when Carol Shields argues that parties provide a unique illumination of character. Or when Maxine Claire links the development of her poetic voice to her mother's talent for improvisational piano playing. Most entries, though, are more banal. Judith Thurman, who spent a year in Paris, anticipates the ``Proustian glamour'' that will accrue to her son when, as an adult, he can say he once played in the Luxembourg Gardens. Living in a house previously owned by two sisters, Susan Schneider imagines their kindly presence; even a form letter to the deceased sisters gives her the feeling that ``the real message was: Remember us.'' Exuding the score-keeping attitude that gives good manners a bad name, Jane Howard informs us that her mother taught her to write thank-you notes and if she had ever had children, they certainly would have learned to do so, too. To the reader who imagines that everyone else leads better, happier lives, this book whispers, in a voice scented with equal parts of attar of roses and smugness: ``You're right. We do.''
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