SIMON'S WIFE by Decla Dunning


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First novelist Dunning has a nice satiric knack, but she exploits it far too little in this tale about the awakening of a disillusioned beauty who flees from her once-loved husband to an island off Kenya. Deborah Brown has been married twelve years to writer Simon--a marriage which peaked in empathy when Simon was struggling with earnest, unprofitable novels. But when Simon hits it big with sexploitation blockbusters, he loses his soul to the gilded life and is caught in a dreary delicto by Deborah--who scurries off to wealthy, much-married mother Muriel. Muriel is wed this time to handsome English Nigel, a Kenyan rancher; and, once established in Nigel's home on a lovely Kenyan island, Deborah becomes the current topic among the insular, easily titillated European colony. Among the islanders: horny ""Laddy"" Anderson, former great white hunter, con man, thief, and welcome party guest; his home companion, fat, alcoholic Leila, whose splitting dress will make memorable a Christmas party; grim Hans Lauten and sweet wife Berthe, owners of the small hotel; beautiful Esther, Berthe's black assistant; miserable widow Min Stover, done in by the Andersons; and companionable Geeske Bertolini, wise Dutch wife of a foolishly philandering husband. Deborah, with some help from Geeske, is able to avoid the unwelcome attentions of both Laddy and the formidable Kenyan district officer, Njoroge; she even copes with horrid Buffie, an unlovely junkie sister-of-a-friend (one of Laddy's least fortunate seductions). However, Deborah cannot sidestep her passion for Nigel, and the affair has an anguished afterglow--plus added misery from the suicide of gentle Esther (due to Hans' cruelty) and an eagle's attack on Deborah's beloved Yorkshire Terrier. So, at the close, Deborah and Simon (who wants her back) are winging home toward accommodation. Some monotonic characters, some romance clichÉs--but Dunning has a promising way with the light chicanery and fecklessness of insular minds and societies. Overall: mildly diverting.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Crown