FAMILY FORTUNES by Elaine Bissell


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Bissell's third novel (As Time Goes By, 1983, and Women Who Wait, 1978) is a generational saga that chronicles the entwined fortunes of Caroline Kendall, heiress to a far-flung financial empire, and Gail Halloran, her lifelong friend and the daughter of her mother's secretary. Replete with all the trappings that usually adorn this sort of tale of money, wealth and power--fabulous furs, Old Masters, luxury yachts, impeccably appointed Fifth Avenue digs, Newport mansions, etc.--the novel fleshes out the various dramas of its several characters, all of whose destinies are shaped, one way or another, by the legendary tycoon Lawrence Kendall, who turns his modest inheritance into one of the world's mythic fortunes. In the early 1930's, Elizabeth Stuart meets and marries Lawrence Kendall, a dashing widower some 15 years her senior. Their union--a romance for the ages--produces the exquisite Caroline, a beauty who learns the hard way that all too often men are drawn to her for her money and position alone. When she takes a job as a reporter on one of her father's newspapers using an alias, she falls desperately in love with Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Steve McCallum. But when Steve learns her true identity, his populist sensibilities are repelled by her robber-baron roots, and he bitterly breaks off their affair. Years pass, though, and eventually he is able to resign himself to her millions, and they are reunited happily-ever-after. In the meantime, her alter-ego Gail, survives a cruel and heartbreaking liaison with a prominent politician, goes on to make it in a big way as an actress on Broadway and in Hollywood, and finally funds true romantic happiness in marriage to her agent, who has patiently adored her for years. Secondary plots involving everything from WW II Czech resistance fighters through Iron Curtain repression to grand-opera divas round out the whole. Workmanlike and especially good on detailing the various props of affluence, the book begins with genuine promise. But very soon it loses steam, and on balance, seems routine, uninvolving, and curiously lifeless.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's