AT GOD'S PLEASURE by Jean d'Ormesson


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In this fictionalized family-chronicle, d'Ormesson (The Glory of the Empire) seems rather like a taxidermist, stuffily replicating the lost minions of a blueblood clan devoted to ""the parish priest, riding to hounds, reverence for the white flag of royalism, and the family name."" From the castle of Plessis-lez-Vaudreuil issues a family who ""never bought. . . and never sold. . . just accumulated through marriages and deaths, dowries and legacies,"" a family whose good fortunes owed mostly ""to the absence of ideas."" Stroll down the portrait gallery: Aunt Gabrielle and her avant-garde salon, the brother who became a fascist and the one who turned communist; the movie star, the scandalously married; the New Left grandchildren and the majestic grandfather. Spasms of history rather than spurts of personal life move this book; the narrator narrates but tells nothing of himself--and 480 pages of non-intimate long-viewing is a little tough. When the family must, in its decline, sell the castle after World War II, d'Ormesson's reserve gives way to a sostenuto of passionate sadness that proves the book's high point: sentiment given a rare legitimization. But the boulevardiering tone everywhere else, plus the faint starchiness, recommends this to Francophiles in the main and maybe to those nostalgics for whom anything past is peachy.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1977
Publisher: Knopf