THE KENNAWAY PAPERS by James & Susan Kennaway Kennaway


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British novelist James Kennaway (Tunes of Glory) died in a 1968 car-crash (perhaps caused by a heart-attack), leaving behind--in diaries, notes, and letters--a freeform record of the Kennaways' mid-'60s marital crisis. So wife Susan, believing that these pages contain ""some of the best writing he has done,"" has arranged the posthumous pieces, connecting them with her own spare recollections. And the result is a small, rather overwrought story which, ironically, is most involving when Susan is narrating straightforwardly--a welcome relief from James' churning, doleful, occasionally vivid prose. The basic situation was simple enough: after four kids and 15 years of marriage with ever-philandering James, Susan herself fell in extramarital love--with James' dear friend, novelist David (also married). But James' reaction, considering his own affairs and his apparent eagerness for Susan to love David (a hint of latent homosexuality), was surprising: ""neither David nor I had imagined the wildness of James's passion or the sort of fight that he was prepared to make in order that I should stay with him."" There were assorted separations, angry letters: ""you want to destroy me, you won't: not until I have taken you by the throat, have opened your mouth and have killed you stone dead, you inadequate love-refusing Brief Encounter absurdity. Die, die, die."" There were also notes for the love-triangle novel Some Gorgeous Accident, rambling musings on writers and philosophers (Mauriac, Greene, Brecht), reports on his bustling transatlantic sex life, and restless self-analysis. Some of this verbal torment is arresting; much of it is not. And neither of the three parties in the triangle (which simmered down when David decided he couldn't leave his wife anyway) engages much sympathy. An intermittently affecting psycho-drama, then--in a fragmented presentation which may show off James' stormy prose but which also minimizes the story's impact.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1981
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston