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SCANDAL: or, Priscilla's Kindness by A. N. Wilson

SCANDAL: or, Priscilla's Kindness


Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Viking

Though ""not a roman à clef,"" this coldly whimsical little treatment of a sex-scandal involving a British cabinet-minister does combine elements from several recent Whitehall brouhahas; and its central ironic portrait--that of the loyal political wife who remains cheerfully supportive through Anything--is certainly inspired by a real-life procession of stiff-upper-lipped, smiling matrons. After wickedly tracking the pathetic career of air-headed, well-meaning call girl Bernadette Woolley, Wilson (Wise Virgin) gets right to the point: among Bernadette's clients is ""Billy Bunter,"" who likes to be caned by ladies dressed as teachers. . . and ""Billy"" is really Derek Blore, a coarsely middle-class yet up-and-coming London politico. In fact, noisy Derek is doing so well these days, with a Cabinet post on the horizon, that wife Priscilla is unhappy: she is, you see a tony type who married poor Derek--""a frog who could be relied on not to turn into a handsome prince""--because she thrives on being kind and patronizing. Lucky Priscilla, then, will get lots of opportunity to be noble once things start getting nasty for Derek: she's ready to be forgiving when quasi-blackmailer Bernadette shows up at their London home; she's even ready to stand fast when Bernadette's boss teams up with KGB agents to frame Derek as a spy for Moscow (poor Bernadette is forced to wed a gay, washed-up Russian dancer as part of this scheme); furthermore, Priscilla is virtuously turning down extramarital yearnings from publisher Hughie Duncan--who's been missing ""Romance"" ever since marrying Rachel Levine, a US journalist who adores him. Unfortunately, however, dear, noble Priscilla is secretly, casually unfaithful--with a slimy journalist named Feathers who foully brings the whole Derek/Bernadette/ espionage scandal into dreadful print. So, while Bernadette nearly gets killed (by the KGB types) and Priscilla regally retains her ""gleam of kindness"" through the trial, a disillusioned Hughie tries to hold onto his image of Priscilla-as-goddess. . . ""as he watched her helping to distribute the sausage rolls."" Too mild and thinly belabored for major amusement, too sneering for emotional involvement--but modest, stylish comedy of the slick, icy sort, with every character a fool or a faker.