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Pub Date: April 1st, 1986
Publisher: Century Hutchinson--dist. by David & Charles

The time is 1953 in this fourth novel by Klein (Cherry Foss, The Pomegranate Tree); the place, Alcheringa, a bayside town near Sydney, refuge for unmarried, orphaned Cathleen Bell and her baby, Rosamund; the story is of Rosamund's growth and coming-of-age, and Cathleen's complete dependence on her. Cathleen is just 18 when she meets the fiery Black Irish artist, Brian Clancy. Seduced and abandoned by him, and ""in a family way,"" still she finds herself a niche caring for an invalid lady in a beautiful cottage by the sea, which becomes hers after old Mrs. Llewellyn dies. The house, her kindergarten classes, and especially Rosamund are her all for the next 20 years. Suitors come and go, idyllic summers of bathing by the shore turn to fall, and still she remains single, devoted to fair Rosamund, even as the girl grows more and more bumptious and willful like her father (""Peacocks, both of you, two of a kind, and I am a pea-hen the colour of mud,"" Cathleen says). Cathleen stands patiently by as her daughter tramps through the house with hordes of longhaired friends, reviles her mother for her martyrdom, goes away to school, loses her virginity and finally returns to hurl the final insult. Just as Cathleen realizes the need to start a life of her own and conveniently meets an attractive sculptor, Rosie tells her mum that she's met a certain sculptor and fallen in love. Exeunt Cathleen--leaving the spoils of love to Rosamund. This is prettily enough told, despite a few writing fumbles (""Her gaze was a douche of cold water""), the fact that Rosie's disinclination to meet her father is hard to buy, and the book's eventlessness--how exciting can the story of a woman with only a modest interior life, to whom nothing happens, be? Most readers will be peeved to discover that the moment the actions starts, the book stops, just when we're pulling for the pea-hen to get down and mud-wrestle with her peacock-ish daughter.