ALBION WALK by Gwendoline Butler


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A rapid, not-very-scenic transit through London's between-wars theater scene--with some hasty and slovenly romance but little of the suspense that has enlivened previous Butlers. Alice May, daughter of English soubrette Josie and Josie's onetime lover (or husband?) Randolph Charlecote, had been ""dumped"" by her mother in 1913 Vienna. So, while mom Josie tries New York, teenager Alice finds she has the knack for stage design. And after WW I turmoil--adored fiancÉ Frederic stays in Austria, long-lost Papa dies on the battlefield--Alice reaches London, where she decides to restore an old wreck of a theater, the Albion. She resists pressure from the aristocratic Charlecote family--headed by the sole male heir, Matthew. She deflects the cordial arm-twisting and crude courtship of local impresario Francis Hollman. She coaxes angels, earns money designing sets (she's in great demand), and there's always the advice of the show-biz crowd--Noel and Edith, Mrs. Campbell, even a bash or two at Lady Ottoline's. Ah, you ask, but what of love? Well, after the war, Frederic comes to London, but he's mute, a bit out of it, and (as it later turns out) married. So Alice is curiously drawn to cousin Matthew; they marry. And then Alice finds herself torn between her beloved Albion and the security of the Charlecote estate of Cousley, which also needs time and money--a conflict which isn't resolved till, years later, Alice passes Albion over to daughter Aldwyn. Lots of name-drops, little genuine backstage flavor, and an undeveloped twist of murder/blackmail: an under-par effort from a veteran costume-romancer.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1982
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan