PAPER CHAINS by Jane Langton


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Here, in separate short scenes and flashes, are the extracurricular highlights of Evelyn Underhill's first few months at college: the "unsendable" letters she writes to her philosophy professor; the madcap escapades (Langton wouldn't use the phrase but the spirit is the same) such as ringing the bell in the school's boardedup tower; the conspiracy to keep a dog on campus; and the beady moments of cartwheeling with her friends across the square because the sign says "Don't walk." ("It felt marvelous to be stared at.") As for the friends, they're deftly sketched, familiar types: roommate Kayo, the universal genius who doesn't have to study or attend classes and who drops out just before finals; plumpish, tearful Frankie, another exam week dropout, who comes from a Catholic school and always seems to end up in a closet with a boy; and striving "Pruneface" Prue, whose cliched agreement with Evelyn's groping speculation is worse than other people's arguments. Aside from an uncertain sense of era--fifties (or earlier) atmosphere, but more contemporary dorm arrangements, the main problem is that Langston's viewpoint seems limited to that of the glamor-struck participants--even Evelyn's visions of God, who keeps appearing to her as in Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" ("though I honestly didn't believe in him at all"), are not seen as signs of any alarming emotional strain but are experienced rather as a sort of late-adolescent intellectual thrill. Yet Langton does recapture the surface allure; and the paperchain image--which expresses both Evelyn's predilection for school and her expectation of continuity--is felicitous.
Pub Date: April 1st, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1977


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