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Unsuccessfully bittersweet but sometimes funny, this tells of 14-year-old prep-school misfit Harvey Beaumont's brief, smitten interlude with Chandler Brown, 20, a shabby-elegant would-be actress who seems cast from a worn-out Sally Bowles-Holly Golightly mold. Harvey, who feels unlovable because he's short--and because his mother is devoted to her Irish setters, but barely acknowledges his existence--is delighted to be taken seriously by the rakishly glamorous Chan (or so he sees her); and when the dogs that crowd his mother's Fifth Avenue apartment get too much for him, he moves into Chan's apartment. The manservant Holmes is sorry to see him go, but his mother doesn't notice his absence. As for his father, a former bank president, he's already retired to Connecticut where he watches birds and works crossword puzzles. Harvey and Chan get along well, enjoy their domestic routine despite her heavy sherry drinking, sleep together chastely, and basically live on his allowance--though every now and then she turns up with a mysterious wad to spend at Cartier's, Saks, or the Plaza. Harvey is crushed to learn from a vindictive third party how Chan earns the money, but he sticks with her until, crushed herself after a terrible performance off-off-Broadway, she decides to return to Grosse Pointe, Michigan, marry patient, settled Chester, and reclaim from her parents the three-year-old illegitimate daughter whose absence has marked her face with intermittent grief and longing throughout the story. Chan is a tawdry, one-dimensional character, but the novel is entertaining when it takes itself less seriously. Holmes, with a smaller role, is a more effective type character; Harvey's mother's preoccupation with the dogs makes for an amusing caricature; and there is a funny scene with his father, whom he visits to ask for money, when the man momentarily tears his attention from a parakeet to ask about the relationship with Chan. And, of course, this is the sort of glamour fantasy that makes for easy, undisturbing escape.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row