JERICHO by Anthony Costello


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A mill town north of Boston--Jericho, Mass.--believes itself to have been spared by the Depression of the Thirties. Its major employer--Phelps Mill, woolens--is still functioning; people are not out panhandling on the street; a girl like Harriet Hoskins can, despite her father being out of Work, try her wings by leaving home for New York and attempting a writing career. Harriet returns unsuccessful, however--at which juncture her path crosses that of Patrick Flynn, a local ex-seminarian (thus a fellow drop-out) who has now been installed by his ambitious mother Gert as the editor of the fledgling Jericho Irish Spectator; and the newspaper is toeing Father Coughlin's neo-fascist line--because Gert wants to secure a good marriage for one of Patrick's sisters with a big-shot Boston Coughlinite. But when Patrick hires on Harriet, she proceeds to turn the paper around politically, coming out for Roosevelt; furthermore, there's a problematic romance, complicated by Harriet's engagement to Elliot Phelps (son of the mill owner), and by Patrick's sexual puritanism. And once Harriet discovers Elliot in homosexual flagrante, she elopes with Patrick--so they'll battle toward some domestic harmony while simultaneously supporting an ultimately violent mill strike at Phelps (in which Elliot, not quite plausibly, becomes a hero on the side of the strikers). First-novelist Costello does capture the Irish Coughlinite fervor of the Northeast during the period--with dollops of politics and sex to move things along. But mostly this seems like a small, sharp-focused story padded out into a would-be epic (with, for example, dozens of party scenes); and the result is a rather drab, drawn-out period piece that will only half-please either fans of formula-saps or more serious readers.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1982
Publisher: Bantam