Barrett's swank prose and her surprisingly sharp eye for emotional detail give an aura of freshness to this oldest of...



Barrett's swank prose and her surprisingly sharp eye for emotional detail give an aura of freshness to this oldest of romance-fiction scenarios--the flashbacked career of a legendary Broadway star. She's Mary Gay, who, while preparing for her 75th birthday party in 1975 Manhattan, is robbed at gunpoint by a jewel-thief. . . which, of course, inspires Mary to remember her whole life. Born Mary Geylin, from a seriously musical Chicago family, young Mary vows never to sing (she feels guilty about her father's death), instead becoming accompanist to great vocal teacher Madame Selva. But handsome up-and-coming tenor Gianni (Johnny) Amara cajoles Mary into singing Mimi to his rehearsal Rodolfo--and also cajoles her into his bed--before he marches off to World War I. So gifted Mary begins studying voice, wows the locals with ""The Star-Spangled Banner,"" and is offered an operetta part on B'way from suave entrepreneur Charlie Grace. Opera or Broadway? Mary opts for the latter--partly because Gianni not only is reported missing-in-action but is revealed to have had a wife in Brooklyn! And soon Mary Gay is N.Y.'s favorite soprano, happy wife of successful Charlie, mother of son Lion and daughter April. Then, however, psychotically jealous Charlie dies in a boozy car accident (suicide?), and Gianni--not dead, though still married--re-enters Mary's life as her secret, sometime Paris lover. (She doesn't want to marry him; years later, he doesn't want to marry her.) Middle age also brings a much-younger lover in director Max, who is the Svengali behind Mary's 1950s comeback in a serious musical; unfortunately, he is (unbeknownst to Mary) the once-beloved of daughter April, who's doomed to unhappy marriage, a spotty showbiz career, and love-hate tensions with mother Mary. Finally, however, back in the present, son Lion sneaks in and wallops that robber, so Mary sails triumphantly off to her party--where everyone (including April) is ready to forgive, if not forget. Corny? Yes, indeed. But Barrett (Castle Ugly, An Accident of Love) paces the past/present montage nicely, avoids both gush and sleaze, and evokes musical theater with far more conviction than most romancers (the author's father is Irving Berlin). A classy, sometimes piquant diversion, then--especially for those with a fondness for the bygone lilt of light opera.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1980