NOVEMBER by Janet Hobhouse


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Transcontinental novelist Hobhouse (Nellie Without Hugo, Dancing in the Dark) records another minor chapter in Anglo-American domestic relations--a slim novel of manners that's as riveting as drying paint. Zachariah Quine, a middle-aged American composer and teacher, has led an uncluttered life since his actress-wife left him, taking their daughter with her. But that was three years ago, and ever since he's been searching for ""a point to his existence,"" waiting for love and luck to return his way. Instead of watching his ""life shrink like a shirt,"" he quits his job and heads for England, where his brother Michael--like Zach, a former Fulbright scholar--now lives in domestic bliss with his English wife and their two sons. Trying to escape the past and ""live like a free man,"" Zach finds his female counterpart in Anne, a twice-divorced alcoholic as willful in her isolation as Zach is. Ordinary life for Anne is inadequate, demeaning, and trivial, and that's partly why she dumps Zach, himself ""a marginal man in a marginal life."" Since very little happens in this novel, Hobhouse subjects us to her compulsive sententiousness. We learn that London is society, NYC a democracy of familiarity; that Americans prefer raw food and Perrier to roasts and puddings; Yanks are so literal and Brits so ironic; England never changes, the States worship disposability, and so on. On love: ""a kind of Tylenol, temporary relief at best, possibly poisoned."" Freedom means ""to be tortured and ridiculous""; ""back is where you come when you run out of reasons to be away."" No wonder that by the novel's end Zach ""has nothing,"" just one suitcase and lots of pain. Ping-pong dialogue that makes your head spin; unironic pronunciamentos on Art that don't even try--all in the service of a disposable insight: ""we love people and it's not enough.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1986
Publisher: Vintage/Random House