LOVERS AND TYRANTS by Francine du Plessix Gray
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What an attractive intemperate, pervasive presence is Stephanie who may well be very much like the author of this book which consists of intersected insets going back to WW II when her White Russian emigree mother in Paris neglected her, a little, and her father went off to die for the Free French. This first part is ""Fantahsteec"" (so are all the recurrent European sections)--it's the world of Niccolo Tucci or to a degree Nabokov, that world of exiles who retained their imperiousness, largesse, romantic volatility and flair--no end of flak. What Stephanie will later call ""style incarnate, style incarnate."" But there's more to it than that--Stephanie/Francine had that legacy of militant radical Catholicism (remember Francine Gray's Divine Disobedience) and her passionate inquiry and free-thinking liberation derive not only from her own family but extend back to Joan of Arc and on to Colette and de Beauvoir. During the war Stephanie and her mother come to the States--her mother to work, Stephanie to attend the right schools and finally marry Paul. He's the housebred ""Mr. Marriage"" of the winterized coats and polished silver; he will be the victim not only of her own exclusively European attachments but also of our recent ""magnificent sexual revolution"" and her restless searches for God and man, for causes, for herself. Finally when seen toward the end (post-Paul, post-hysterectomy, post-breakdown) she's with a bisexual boy half her age, stoned on drugs and nonstop sex. This is where she views a woman's life as a series of ""exorcisms"" from those lovers and tyrants, parents, husbands, doll-houses, irreconcilables. The novel is by no means the sum of its disparate and unequal parts. The last Scene is overly familiar--so many sisters have been straddling it. Still what an exhausting, expressive, and very talented writer is Francine Gray--rather like the mother she loved, ""a force of nature."" Or as a relative put it gently earlier on when Stephanie revisited her past--""You see darling, we are all so nutty, so excessive."" Book-of-the-Month Club selection.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1976
ISBN: 0393305473
Publisher: Simon & Schuster