FIRST WINE by Jack Dunphy


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Dunphy's subject--a boy's summertime coming-to-knowledge--is a hoary one. His architecture--a boarding-house, filled with personality types--is equally familiar. Yet, despite all that, there's a freshness to the handling hem that makes this novel quite pleasing, easy to take. Jackie is twelve, an early-Depression Philadelphia boy whose close friend is a neighborhood bootlegger: ""Aunt Frances"" Fitzgerald--who brews dandelion wine and holds a sort of sipping salon, which is attended by various young men, all of them local misfits. So, one summer, Aunt Frances takes the whole motley crew with her to Bucks County, where her mother and sister Clem have a country house. And the young men pair off there--with each other, or with frank, strong, principled Clem (the novel's most appealing character). Finally, however, the summer provides the usual lessons in sadness and dashed hopes: in Jackie's case, there's an encounter with a pair of Indian boys who scorn him--because they're so desperate themselves hot to be scorned; in all cases there are brave emotional fumbles. (""It's hell to adroit we are wrong where out hearts are concerned,"" says one character sagely.) A bit too long, a tad too wispy--but Dunphy's delight in eccentricity (and its wisdom) is winning and gives this book a nice, gentle pull.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1982
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press