A glossily superficial but nicely decorated family novel--in which women from four generations not only miss connections...

READ REVIEW

SIGNS OF LIFE

A glossily superficial but nicely decorated family novel--in which women from four generations not only miss connections with one another, but hammer out lifelong roadblocks to shut out any outflow of familial trust and love. Virginia at 80, whose hallucination-crammed, dying hours lead to episodic flashbacks, is attended by her stern daughter Mary and by her ever-emoting son Charles, with his acidulous wife (two of Elliott's eccentric specialties). But Virginia's sister Flora, a shriveled former aquatic star of the ""moom pitchers,"" is the only one who remembers Grace--the pretty, vacuous, penniless mother who skipped off to Australia with a manufacturer of cranes, leaving pre-teen Flora and Virginia, ""selling them down the river"" to rich Grandmother Irene. So most of this novel takes place in the past--as young Virginia begins to adore her aloof, wise, beautiful grandmother. . . until she discovers the ugly truths of Irene's lesbian affairs. So Virginia's tenderer feelings become calcified; in New York at 18, she innocently turns away the love of gawky, miserable, rich Loretta; and, after an evanescent affair with a doomed, earnest WW I soldier, there will be three men in her life, all sincere in their admiration: Gatsby-ish Tory, a ""Svengali from the Racquet Club"" who dresses her luxuriantly yet never can air his soul on her ""emotionless plateau""; kind dogged lawyer Luther Brett, whom she will marry, but with whom she finds ""no sign of life"" in herself; and in middle age, novelist Ross Vernon, in whom schoolteacher daughter Mary has some interest. There are finally ten years of joy with Ross--as Virginia finds her ""real self"". . . until Ross' suicide. And in old age Virginia's messy real self will be tidied, swept, and well-nigh exterminated by daughter Mary--who, at her mother's death, will weep for a cold, self-contained Virginia who never saw her plain, but ""made up a chidhood for me."" Many bright intuitions and dialogues--and although the four principal women are sketchy or even cartoonish, Elliott writes with a modicum of wit and dash.

Pub Date: April 29, 1981

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1981