PLUCKING THE APPLE by Elizabeth Palmer

PLUCKING THE APPLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Sex is easily come by but love proves elusive for the married couples who are members of London's rich, arty set in this thoroughly likable romp from the British Palmer (Scarlet Angel, 1993). ""I don't want the one I've got. I want a different one."" Tessa Lucas is talking about husbands. ""An upper-crust primitive"" with a will of iron, the beautiful, brainless, sexy Tessa is the engine driving Palmer's novel. She has already slept with half of London and concealed this fact from her jealous, hot-tempered husband, Alexander, who remains unhappily infatuated with her. Then she meets the equally willful, equally promiscuous painter Jack Carey. What could be more chic than being the wife of a famous artist? Her plan greatly alarms her brother James Hartigan. He and Victoria (the only happy couple here) own a gallery, and Jack is their difficult star. They are relying on his long-suffering wife, Ellen, to keep him from drinking and screwing long enough to produce some work for his forthcoming exhibition, and they view Tessa as an intolerable new distraction. Her affair with Jack is the center of the action; on the periphery, poorly integrated into the whole, is another troubled marriage. The unattractive art critic Ginevra Haye married semi-literate builder Kevin because the sex was so good; with Kevin away overseas, Ginevra writes a sexually explicit, wholly imaginary account of a liaison with James (whom she has loved since he deflowered her at Oxford). But writing about women who mope or cope (like Ellen) is not what Palmer does best. She excels at the comic treatment of clashing egos. Sometimes she ratchets up the comedy to the speed of farce: The disastrous Jack Carey private view begins with Tessa replacing a portrait of Ellen with a stunning nude...herself. Though it sometimes feels like a hurried first draft, Palmer's novel has enough attack to make for a consistently lively read.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1994
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's