COMING APART by Jean Renvoize


Email this review


Anatomy of a London child-snatching--in a slow-moving, intermittently suspenseful novel which too often reads like a series of clinical case histories. The baby son of top TV-news personality Jess Bennett has been snatched from his carriage; and Renvoize's narrative goes back and forth--from Jess' ordeal (complicated by an estranged husband, a secret lover, the abusive Press, the male-chauvinistic Police) to the life story of the kidnapper. She's pathetic, young, sexually ambivalent Carrie Warren--scarred by an unloving mother, a too-loving father (he's in jail for their incest), a suicide attempt. . .and (more recently) a tormented affair with upper-class juvenile delinquent Aidan, a miscarriage of her joyously-anticipated baby, and the news that her father will soon be released from jail. Not surprising, then, that disturbed Carrie--who happens to be in Jess Bennett's neighborhood because Aidan's probation officer David is Jess' secret lover--grabs the baby, thinking it's her own. Will she hurt the baby before someone tracks her down? That's the only suspense here--and it's substantially diffused by Renvoize's unfocused inquiries into the psyches of all concerned: Aidan; Jess' ambitious barrister husband; an au pair girl who's got evidence of the Jess/David affair; and Jess herself--whose career is being ruined by bad, sexist publicity while she agonizes through a sex-role identity-crisis (""from somewhere deep inside her a voice cried to her father, 'You castrated me!'""). Finally, Carrie is brought to her senses by her father's suicide . . .but when the two women meet there's some ironic, contrived violence. A writer like Ruth Rendell might have turned the grim, charged material here into a chilling fable. Renvoize, however, gets seriously sidetracked in sticky layers of psychopathology (all of her women have father hangups); and the result is an uneven psycho-social study (most involving with poor Carrie) that's further limited by the British preoccupations with the Press (the ""Tory heavies"" vs. ""the populars,"" etc.) and class distinctions.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1981
Publisher: Stein & Day