LAST NIGHT THE NIGHTINGALE by Clifford Dowdey

LAST NIGHT THE NIGHTINGALE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It is difficult to determine what Clifford Dowdey intends as the focus of this odd novel:- a portrait of a family, ingrown to the point of being emotionally crippled; a picture of reconstruction days in Virginia through an impoverished plantation household; or a study of a marriage trap in process of disintegration- and of the near escape and final closing in again. So diffuse are his directions in these three areas that the novel becomes a mere vehicle for a dissertation on all themes, successful in none. Once before in Weep for My Brother his dual purpose spoiled his story. And once again it is hard for the reader to find himself in sympathy with the hero, a Confederate veteran, in precarious health, a ""refugee"" with his wife, who is bored with him, on the rundown plantation which had been her home. His wife, needing his admiration, turns to a Johnny-come-lately who is making money out of carpet-bagging practices, and the husband, Ballard Edwards, finds himself enthralled with a member of his wife's family, Joan, just emerging from coccoon wrappings of adolescence. The dual betrayal is on the safe side of morality if not of propriety but it is, in final analysis, The Family (in capital letters), that wins. Long passages of author commentary, put into the first person of Ballard thinking aloud, provide odd digressions and slow the pace of plot. All in all, a disappointment.

Pub Date: July 27th, 1962
Publisher: Doubleday