CABIN FEVER by Elizabeth Jolley


Email this review


 Some would have said that one volume, Jolley's last, My Father's Moon (1989), was enough spent on Vera Wright's airless coming-of-age; but, here, the young English nurse's coming-of-age keeps right on coming, only a tad less ungratifyingly than before. Vera is, as readers will recall from book one, one weird little WW II-era English girl, a little shifty, mulish, flaky, and much too innocent--though she never shakes her fist at heaven when struck by bad luck. Jonathan Metcalf, a married doctor at her teaching hospital, is the principal bringer of misfortune, since he gets her pregnant and then dies in the war, leaving Vera to take herself off to the home of a particularly distasteful couple, where she serves as mother's helper. When her baby, Helena, comes, she's delighted to make her escape from their diet foods and cloying pet-names, landing in a nursing home where she scrubs down walls and buries herself, while Helena grows into a unhealthily silent child. At last the need to join the living returns, and after a quick stint at a grim progressive school, Vera keeps house for an elderly brother and sister, conceiving illegitimate baby number two with the old boy, Mr. George. Interspersed are flashbacks and flashforwards to Vera in other times, but these are more dislocating than elucidating. And, besides, after a while one simply stops wanting to learn more about the all-too-unenthralling character. Jolley's trademark humor nips like a saucy dog at the heels of the proceedings, but never manages to draw blood--which is why fans of UK comedy would be better served by a spin through Fay Weldon.

Pub Date: July 3rd, 1991
ISBN: 0-06-016622-3
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991