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Fourteen undistinguished but often crisply diverting stories from the snappy British author of Virginia Fly in Drowning (1973)--all about love, lust, jealousy, suspicion, and loneliness. Huth is a convincing enough illustrator of middle-class character--speech, quirks, details of dress and surrounding--but too many of these tales rely on lame twists and farcically exaggerated ironies: a man having an affair with his own wife; a furious mistress (""You pig. . . . All these years you've been deceiving me"") who has discovered that her lover's wife has known about them all along; a memory-obsessed widow aghast as her best friend drops hints of the departed hubby's past infidelities. And Huth hasn't quite the narrative brio to bring off contrived notions that verge on the absurd or black-comic: an ever-sacrificing, doting housewife who's committed to an asylum simply for one display of independence; a devilish rake who lures a lass off for a romp in France but turns out to be interested in gourmet eating and nothing else; and the longest story, ""Ladies' Race""--in which two chummy women in love with the same man wind up running a hard (fatal) foot-race to determine who wins his hand in marriage. But even when Huth is stretching a point or skidding uneasily between farce and pathos, her touch is quick, light, easy to skate along with. And in the quieter stories here--especially those about elderly scrimping couples struggling for last love or rock-bottom dignity--the delicate economy of insight and atmosphere become, without distractions, genuinely impressive. Minor work, to be sure, mostly familiar variations on timeworn themes; but sharp and sprightly enough to provide a good many snips of slippery entertainment.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Clarkson N. Potter--dist. by Crown