THE LAST OF THE TRUE BELIEVERS by Ann Birstein
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THE LAST OF THE TRUE BELIEVERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Delivered with great animation and perfect pitch: a portrait of a stormy literary marriage of the 50's, by highly gifted novelist and memoirist Birstein (American Children, 1980; The Rabbi of Forty-Seventh Street, 1982). Sunny Mansfield, a golden-haired Connecticut girl, is 22 when she publishes a promising first novel and meets, at a dinner party given by her editor, dark, brilliant 40-year-old Jewish poet and Partisan Review critic David Harvey, with whom she falls immediately and permanently in love--to the detriment of her second novel, already begun but not to be completed for ten years. Instead, as Sunny and David share meals in David's studio apartment, meet period literary lights--Harold Rosenberg, Dehnore Schwartz--for drinks, and travel separately and together to writers' colonies and to Paris on fellowships, Sunny works for David--helping him to make connections, reading proofs of his poems, cheering him up when he becomes depressed. After they're married, the pattern intensifies--David moves Sunny and their new baby to the country, to be near David's teaching job, but continues to spend much of his time in editors' offices and publishing parties in New York. And in other women's beds--including that of Sunny's alcoholic ex-roommate, Mary Ann. When Sunny discovers this, her unfailingly idealistic instinct is to convert to Judaism--which she does, but without drawing David closer to her or persuading him to take her--now not a golden girl but only a wife--as seriously as he takes his succession of ""poor professional"" mistresses. So Sunny returns to work on her novel--and as she grows more successful, David grows more distant: in the end, to keep him, Sunny arranges for a Jewish divorce and reconciliation. Acute, moving, beautifully executed, and unfailingly tree of its time and place.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1988
Publisher: Norton