This lighthearted, sparkling novel presents the adventures, romantic and otherwise, of a man, his dog, his mother’s ghost and other assorted characters.
Schoolteacher Chesterfield is a man satisfied with life: His parents and his dog are “in super fettle,” his sixth-graders are doing well and he’s happily married. Or so he thinks, until the “one rummy morning” his wife, Deborah, (having grown impatient of Chesterfield’s low pay and despairing of his ever inheriting the perhaps-mythical family fortune) leaves him for newly rich Benedict Hoepplewhite, “mortgage broker, wife-stealer and cur.” This sets in motion a series of events, including an aborted revenge attempt, tenure struggles at Chesterfield’s school, wrongdoings at a fitness club, a new romance with a pretty kindergarten teacher and not a little heroism. Then there’s his mother’s death and reappearance as a ghost, her arrival signaled by the tinkling of ice cubes in her ever-present drink. In these adventures, Chesterfield is joined by “the smashingest girl ever, name of Carrie Hahn, and the stellar dog Daisy, who sniffs out villains a mile away, and the lioness-hearted ‘gym-chick’ Jeanine, who carried the day when I fell wounded, and who made a man of my gormless pal Larry.” Chesterfield—whose American father was “the fightingest blood and guts Marine of his day”—talks like someone out of P.G. Wodehouse. It’s because, he says, his father was always out of the country, while his British mother “spoke the language and ethic that I breathed in: ‘There never was a time like good King Edward’s, dear. For fun, for peace, and for talk. It was Shakespeare and Elizabeth with proper drains and no bear-baiting.’ ” Even in Britain, Chesterfield’s what-ho slang would probably be out of date, but no matter; it’s fun. Chesterfield’s gentlemanly ethic includes not initiating his divorce (“only a swine” would do that) and declining to entrap Hoepplewhite, finally wishing him no harm: “I sensed approval by the good old Anglican deity who made dogs and trout streams, has humour, and stands like a Gentleman mostly out of the way.” Literate, funny and romantic, with amusing comments on American culture, this novel has its heart in the right place.
The only unsatisfying feature of Parry’s debut is that it ends.