Lengthy, verbose, with neither the zip nor the economy of a good soap: one Englishwoman's slosh through marriage, affairs,...



Lengthy, verbose, with neither the zip nor the economy of a good soap: one Englishwoman's slosh through marriage, affairs, motherhood, and the fringes of war--from 1914 Ceylon to 1939 London. Elizabeth Wingate is content in her handsome digs in Ceylon with baby Jennifer and attractive, successful husband Charles, merchant and plantation owner. But then Elizabeth, a decorously passive woman of her time, is stunned by the information--proferred by her new friend Lady Ginny Pearsall--that Charles has been highly unfaithful. So, though Elizabeth can't confront Charles (who's similarly un-forthcoming), she is ready to be goaded out of passivity by intellectual Peter Williams: after WW I she and Peter, en route to England, become lovers. Still, Charles and Elizabeth never will divorce. And in London, certain there must be more to life, Elizabeth casts about for diversion: she works for Lady Astor's MP campaign; she eventually becomes a staff-member at an opinion research firm. Meanwhile, too, daughter Jennifer gets busy: she's presented at Court; and then, after Charles' death, she's suddenly a budding actress who marries older banker Anthony James--who's nasty about Jennifer signing a long-range contract with Selznick. So eventually everybody--Elizabeth, Jennifer, Mabel (Jennifer's Nanny), Jennifer's baby Merry, Anthony, and Elizabeth's new lover--winds up in Los Angeles, where it's taken for granted that Jennifer's a snap for Scarlett in GWTW. But Anthony quashes her chances for that and the later Rebecca role when he threatens to expose a scandal involving Jennifer with famous actor Robert Brandon--who is none other than Nanny Mabel's brother. And so it goes. . . till the ladies traipse back to London, where Elizabeth shakes off one last control from a dead Charles and gives Jennifer a lecture on fighting--and winning--in men's marriages and men's wars. With implausible plotting, unconvincing Hollywood-celebrity backgrounds, fake feminism, and dialogue full of numbing pseudo-aphorisms (""Illusions are something we all have. . . . But we can each choose whether or not we want them""; ""Hope, not imagination, enables us to survive war"")--an interminable, irksome mockup of a woman-saga; you'll do better to re-read Barbara Taylor Bradford's A Woman of Substance or one of the other, many examples of the real thing.

Pub Date: April 9, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1982