DOWNTOWN by Anne Rivers Siddons
Kirkus Star


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Fresh from a fictional European jaunt in last year's Hill Towns, Siddons returns to the American South to depict a sheltered young woman's first taste of independence in the late 1960s. Raised to be a ""decent Catholic girl,"" 26-year-old Smoky O'Donnell leaves her working-class Savannah home for the bright lights of Atlanta, lured by a job offer from Matt Comfort, the talented and high-spirited editor of Downtown magazine. The newest senior editor easily fits in with ""Comfort's People,"" the magazine's small in-house staff, and relishes the on-the-town group socializing that is part of the job, but she becomes frustrated by Matt's (sexist) insistence on occupying her with mundane tasks. Smoky's break comes when she meets charming and wealthy Brad Hunt, who wants her to conduct his previously scheduled Downtown interview -- as their first date. The civil rights movement exists only as background to the sheltered Smoky, and although Brad mentions the race ""problem,"" this thread is taken up by two people who become increasingly important to her: Lucas Geary, an accomplished photographer with an irritating habit of aiming his Leica up women's skirts, and his friend John Howard, who is one of Martin Luther King's ""closest lieutenants."" Smoky's career progresses as satisfactorily as does her romance with Brad. Yet even before Lucas and art director Tom Gordon head out for a look at the ""youth culture"" across the American landscape, one senses that the heady '60s culture (and Downtown as microcosm) will be shown to contain self-indulgence and other seeds of its own decay. Siddons draws her ensemble cast with confidence and panache. But her treatment of serious subjects like race, abortion, and the sexual revolution is troubled by ambiguity, as if she were playing both sides of these volatile issues.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: HarperCollins