FLANDERS POINT by Jacquie Gordon


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 An uneven, oddly paced tale of first love at a 1950s Connecticut prep school seems at times more appropriate to the YA market than to an adult audience. To the author's credit, though, protagonist Charlotte Delafield is no run-of-the-mill schoolgirl. Psychologically damaged by the volatile homelife of peculiar, neglectful parents, Charlotte decides to stay in her hometown as her mother and father's divorce disperses the family across the East Coast. Exchanging room and board for childcare duties, the 18-year-old moves in with the seemingly respectable Macreadys and enters Haddam Academy, a small, exclusive girls' school. Soon enough, Charlotte and many of the other seniors fall in love with the young English teacher Brian Parton. She in turn catches Brian's eye, and much of the story dwells on the subtle, unconscious intimacies the two develop. Brian is conflicted about his inappropriate fantasies concerning his student (imagining her naked, etc.), and though the reader can sympathize with his ethical quandary, the fact that they are close to the same age greatly lessens the mood of restriction and danger Gordon attempts to build. Meanwhile, life on Long Island Sound turns dark when Charlotte, an avid naturalist out exploring one day, is raped by Mr. Macready and suffers the emotional consequences of keeping it a secret. The pace speeds up when Charlotte is rejected by Radcliffe, blossoms in the senior play, graduates, and finally consummates her affair with Brian. The last 50 pages slow down again, though agreeably, as the polite constraints of the previous sections are left behind to describe, in rather touching scenes, the romance the two share. The concluding chapters display real talent, offering an emotional immediacy the rest of the novel lacks. An unspectacular debut, but Gordon is clearly a writer with promise.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15531-X
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1997