ONLY CHILDREN by Alison Lurie
Kirkus Star

ONLY CHILDREN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Lurie's rich and delicately textured novels are deepening in complexity and force: in this comedy-drama set on the July 4 weekend of 1935, two edgy couples bobble their marital frustrations around like frantic balloons while their eight-year-old daughters observe it all, misunderstanding much but understanding a great, great deal. They're all gathered for a visit to the upstate N.Y. farm owned by handsome, 52-year-old Anna, headmistress of the girls' progressive school--and, as Anna exercises her special talent for really listening, the postures and pretensions of the likable and habit-hobbled parents seem to expand in the heat. Dan and Celia are Lolly's folks: a handsome, successful ad man who worries that he has ""sold out""--and a pale, frightened wife. Mary Ann's parents are balding Bill, who toils in the then-virgin field of Federal Relief, and southern Honey, a blond kitten who says she's only 37. The first night Dan pounces on Honey, but she doesn't think she can manage a get-together in the barn (""with mah hubby watching me. . . like a chicken hawk""), and their several rendezvous attempts flop comically while alarmed spouses flap about. The kids refuse to take a nice walk in the woods. Strained tempers erupt. And there's a final free-for-all at a party with funny hats, blowers, sodden fisticuffs, feline scratches, and manly political insults. While all this ""adult"" play goes on, Mary Ann and Lolly undertake the careful responsibilities of their play--from inventing elegantly tooled romances to explicating for each other some grown-up mysteries. Although each adult glances off some home truths, they will all wobble back to square-one for the trip home. And Mary Ann, quick at assessing currents, concludes that ""Love can make you act mean or even crazy."" The child's world has never seemed saner than in this keenly observed, lovely country-side--and rarely have grown-ups' perplexities seemed more touching.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1979
Publisher: Random House