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Personal memoir thinly disguised as fiction by O’Connor (Impasses de la fidelite, 1991).

Plucky Yvette O’Leary leaves her homeland of Noumea, New Caledonia (the titular “over there”) and conquers the Los Angeles real estate market of the early ’60s, finding true love on her journey. Financial independence her only goal, Yvette sells luxury apartments in Wilshire Manor, overcoming the vicious backbiting of colleagues and Los Angelenos’ distrust of the Eastern co-op system. She shares her professional tribulations with her lover Russ, also dissatisfied with his job as a sales manager for the Wall Street Journal. But while Russ seeks only to earn enough money to go “fiu”–i.e., flee commitment and responsibility to indulge his desire for travel–Yvette craves security. Their relationship survives seemingly divisive philosophical differences as they learn to appreciate one another’s motivations. O’Connor’s evocative portrayal of Los Angeles during a pivotal era of its development is often fascinating, although her tendency to convey historical information through lengthy, awkward dialogue between Russ and Yvette weakens the narrative. Readers will enjoy getting to know the novel’s many interesting characters, all of whom come from diverse geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds but are united by the drive for financial success. She also touches upon several of the alternative social movements of the time–the beatniks and the drug culture of Venice, in particular–but her depictions are disappointingly superficial. Perhaps because Yvette is so clearly based on herself, O’Connor seems not to notice some of the character’s most unique characteristics: While most of the women in the novel have gained their wealth through their association with men, whether by inheritance or marriage, Yvette gets by on the strength of her own accomplishments. Yvette’s tantalizing back story, including her departure from New Caledonia through marriage to an itinerant magician and an early business venture raising chinchillas in Los Angeles, is the stuff of a future novel. O’Connor’s prose sings, but occasionally off-key.

Charming heroine offers a guided tour through retro Los Angeles.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 2006
ISBN: 978-1-4134-9414-3
Program: Kirkus Indie
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