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Predictable WWII romance from the author of, among others, The Fountain (2001).

Teenaged Carrie Benedict says no to a passionate picnic with her boyfriend, a rock drummer, and instead helps her beloved granny, from whom she has inherited an uncanny emotional sensitivity, to clean out the attic. “What a beautiful trunk!,” exclaims Carrie, “I don’t think I’ve seen it before, have I?” Well, no—but the plot device looks awfully familiar. Grandmother Maude Kendall, a venerable goddess with a long, snow-white braid, reaches into the trunk and pulls out a crumbling volume of poetry, given to her by her English husband, in 1938 a don at Oxford, where Maude was studying. She explains to her rapt granddaughter how her lively intelligence and American high spirits captivated the bookish Stephen, unhappily married to the fragile and difficult Helena. But idyllic days of discussing Romantic literature and wandering through quaint English towns (and meeting for clandestine trysts at ye olde inn) soon ended when Hitler began bombing and Stephen joined the Royal Navy’s intelligence division. Very hush-hush—he couldn’t even write or call, lest he reveal where he is stationed. Unable to return to the US, Maude trained as a nurse and coped bravely with the strain of the war. Then one day she received a letter enclosing the last stanza of a poem she and Stephen both loved, which she took to mean that Stephen had forsaken her, as the stag in the poem abandoned the rose. Could it be true? There is no further communication—until a young officer delivers a cryptic crossword (this too is in the old trunk). It holds the clue to a rendezvous at The Rose and The Stag, where the lovers meet again. Helena’s machinations are finally revealed (it was she who sent the confusing stanza) and—oh, no—though Stephen’s wife doesn’t really love him, she won’t divorce him. Can true love eventually conquer all?

Tripe, served lukewarm.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-06-001397-4
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2003


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