THE MARRIAGE BED by Diana Saville


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A British writer's debut aspires to Pilcheresque heights (glorious English gardens, estranged children, the sanctity of home) but falls way short, thanks to far too many loose ends and not nearly enough charm. Laura Fenton is a still beautiful 50-plus when her midlife crisis kicks in, coinciding with the annual opening of her magnificent gardens at the elegant Lownden House, where she and staid Geoffrey have spent their 30 years of marriage. At the opening, Laura receives her major shake-up in the form of Leo Ranson: her dashing lover from three decades previous, just before her parents had talked her into making a more suitable, socially acceptable match in Geoffrey. Laura dallies again with Leo, but when Geoffrey finds himself in financial straits (his business is on the rocks), her loyalties are sorely tested: Will it be comfort, tradition, family, or...a chance to recapture the fleeting passion of her youth? The threat of losing her home and all that entails, especially her luxurious life there, brings the situation to a head; finally, Laura's younger, poorer, divorced friend Tessa, who's also met--and been intrigued by--Leo, saves the day, in a manner of speaking. Meanwhile, Laura and Geoffrey's two daughters flit in and out of the story: Rosy and her dim-witted husband William, angry at the prospect of losing their inheritance, desert the Fentons in their time of need, but the younger, wilder Allegra--who changes her name when she converts to Buddhism--proves to be made of stronger stuff. At the close, laura's martyr-like decision about her longstanding if nevertheless half-baked marriage will surprise some readers but satisfy few. Saville has the trappings down but needs to work on creating characters worth caring about--and, here, a hollow ending doesn't help matters.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's