OXFORD GIRLS by Barbara Mercer


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Dual confessions through the years from two Oxford U. roommates: Jessica, serious and solid; and Clare, beautiful and careless but, of course, vulnerable 'neath the ""little heart-shaped face."" Jessica narrates first--as we learn that the two share an Oxford apartment with fat, whiny Helen (referred to as ""Lump""). And life is realtively unruffled even though Clare forthrightly appropriates Jessica's boyfriend Michael. (Jessica knows she can't win: ""It was the way of the world."") But then Clare's self-possession is knocked perilously askew when she falls in love with Scottish aristocrat Jack and dumps Michael: Michael, in revenge, dates the Lump; Jack has second thoughts; Clare repossesses Michael; and the poor Lump whines into Eternity with an overdose. So now Clare takes over the narration--regrettably in a voice identical to Jessica's--to tell of her train journey to London: she meets somewhat sinister, middle-aged Anton, a successful cold fish who thinks she should be an actress; Clare pays the price of a career via mildly kinky sex; she must give up a really stupendous passion with painter Tom. (""It was what I had never experienced before--'the paradise of sex'--and I completely abandoned myself to it."") And then it's back to Jessica, twelve years after Oxford: she's miserably married to snotty don Patrick; she gets a visit from glamorous star Clare; there's a cleansing bawl (""I had Clare again and she was my strength""); but Clare reverts to type in an astonishing display of casual greed, leaving Jessica glumly assessing the fate of those who are handmaidens to monsters. Good gossip smothered by droning narration--without the depth, wit, or vividness of Frederick Raphael's roughly similar The Glittering Prizes.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's