FULL TERM by J. I. M. Stewart


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The final--also the smoothest and driest--installment in Stewart's five-volume journey with narrator Duncan Patullo, a divorced, Oxford-educated playwright who goes back 20 years later to teach at his old college. (Previous novels, 1975-1978: The Gaudy, Young Patullo, A Memorial Service, The Madonna of The Astrolabe.) Eschewing the cumbersome flashbacks and arch locutions that have sometimes made the Patullo books heavy going, Duncan mostly tells here the mildly engaging tale of the university crisis over physicist-professor William Watershute: he's been neglecting his tutorials, coming to dinner drunk, and reputedly spending his family's limited funds on exotic extramarital females. Duncan is concerned, especially since Watershute's nice son is a college-staircase neighbor; but happily, all is resolved with revelations of a bit of heavily-camouflaged, good-guy espionage. And on a more intensely personal level, Duncan faces crises with the three women in his life: the husband of lost-love Janet is critically wounded in an accident--does Duncan secretly wish him dead?; his lascivious ex-wife Penny is found up to her old tricks, consorting with three generations of a titled family; and Duncan learns why his young cousin Fiona recoils from his marriage proposals--there's a (false) family rumor that Duncan is her real father! Plus: the usual round of students to befriend, old chums to chat with, and dying professors to mourn. Mild-mannered in the extreme--45-ish Duncan has always seemed closer to the age of author Stewart (a.k.a. Michael Innes)--but this is a gentle, witty, appropriately inconclusive adieu to rather sad Duncan Patullo and his bright, brave, quintessentially old-Oxford milieu.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1979
Publisher: Norton