It’s 1962. The world is about to change, and Inez Roseman can’t wait for it to do so—or to check out of its travails.
Former Hungry Mind Review editor Schneider turns in a prequel to Secret Love (2001), a title more suited to this book than to its predecessor. Inez is a talented if moody violinist for the San Francisco Symphony; it doesn’t help that she’s turning 40 and that her husband, a flashy attorney, has become an accomplished philanderer and now speaks to her mostly when he wants to criticize her: “If I wanted to marry Olive Oyl, I’d have married Olive Oyl.” “Inez, you can’t play the gas pedal like it’s the pedal on a bass drum.” Jake Roseman is a skilled bon vivant, mixes a fine highball, and makes a lot of money, but he’s not much of a husband, and Inez, embarking on a difficult solo career, needs more attention than he seems willing to give. Enter Sylvia Bran, a plain but beguiling woman ten years Inez’s junior, who introduces herself as a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle wanting to do a profile of Inez. Her would-be subject has never seen her byline, and therein hangs a good part of Schneider’s tale, which, if sometimes melodramatic, is always believable and hits the right period-detail notes. This is true even when Schneider turns up the heat between Inez and Sylvia, threatening to scald a few eyeballs in the process; though the result is plenty steamy, there’s also the nodding understanding between the two that though this sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen in their day and age (“ ‘Do you think it’s terribly unnatural?’ Sylvia asks”), it does. And so do many other things that, in the end, tear the Rosemans’ house apart, thus setting the stage for what follows in Secret Love.
Too talky by half, and the pensive, sometimes gloomy atmosphere, though well suited to the San Francisco fog, won’t appeal to readers in need of cheering up. Still, Schneider spins a good yarn—and he knows his Mendelsohn.