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HER NATIVE COLORS by Elisabeth Hyde



Pub Date: May 2nd, 1986
Publisher: Delacorte

A first novel that concerns the reunion of Phoebe and Molly, two women just turning 30 who have grown up together and moved apart--both geographically (Phoebe is a San Francisco lawyer, Molly a teacher and weaver in their native Vermont) and emotionally. They are oldest friends, but perhaps no longer best friends, we are repeatedly reminded. A colloquial if undistinguished style soon bogs down into meticulous, obsessive introspection as Phoebe and Molly agonize over how each will be received by the other during their forthcoming meeting in their hometown on the occasion of Molly's wedding. Lawyer Phoebe is especially unsympathetic, adopting for much of the book a patronizing and denigrating attitude toward her erstwhile friend's life, and when she does achieve a conversion of sorts, she is still so laboriously self-centered that one is hard-pressed to give her any points. Teacher Molly is jealous of and intimidated by Phoebe. Both indulge in incessant self-analysis; when the blowup between the two finally arrives, the reader is likely to be suffering too-severe a case of claustrophobia, brought on by the suffocating barrage of psychological detail, to care. But Hyde delivers very convincing descriptions of the Vermont countryside and the interiors of its houses. She is also good on the humorlessness of law school, the switch from pre-law idealism to third-year cynicism, and on the deadliness of life in even a medium-size law firm. If in her next novel she chooses to channel her clear talent for detail into a less psychologically constricted, more free-striding narrative, the book might be a most enjoyable one.