THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER by Jeffrey Archer
Kirkus Star

THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Archer may have only a speck of talent, but he sure has chutzpah--which is what it takes to baldly recycle material from one book into another: this is a sequel to his bestselling Kane and Abel (1980), and the first half is essentially just a recap of hotel-tycoon Abel's story, with the emphasis now on Abel's daughter Florentyna. As in Kane and Abel, Florentyna will grow up to meet and marry--by chance, of course--Richard Kane, son of Abel's lifelong banker-nemesis. But first we get her precocious Chicago childhood in the Thirties, her super-education from English governess Miss Tredgold, her early love of politics, her academic achievements (special Radcliffe scholarship). Then comes the recycled courtship (""'Darling,' said Richard very quietly. 'My father hates your father'""), the marriage, the fathers' curses, Florentyna's fashion-shop success, the fathers' reconciliations. All rehashed stuff--except for the details and viewpoints. And the novel's second half, though moving past Kane and Abel into the Seventies and beyond, is surprisingly flat, with none of the melodramatic brio of the Kane/Abel story. The fathers die. Florentyna takes over Abel's Baron Group empire. Richard fights, successfully, to regain control of his father's banking empire (with financial aid from Florentyna). Florentyna, ""the woman Time said ran behind only Jackie Kennedy and Margaret Mead in the nations esteem,"" is urged to run for Congress. She wins; speaks out for heavy defense spending (calling Reagan an ""isolationist""); disdains a bribery attempt; loses her first Senate bid because of publicity over her daughter's abortion. But soon she is a Senator (a crusader against welfare fraud), and, after Richard's car-crash death, she eyes the Presidency: at the 1992 Democratic convention, she almost gets the nomination . . . but agrees to be VP when her running mate promises to let Florentyna run in '96. And finally, after a WW III crisis (over Pakistan), a broken promise, and a predictable twist of fate, Florentyna is indeed the first woman president. Kane and Abel readers will surely be disappointed by the undramatic political climb here--heavy on pallid speeches; some of them may also be turned off by Florentyna's shallow, hawkish ideology, by Archer's anachronistic dialogue, or by his tacky in-jokes. (A welfare cheat goes by the name of ""Tom Guinzberg,"" which is also the name of Archer's former publisher.) But there's bland charm in those early governess chapters--and if the painfully dull Parsifal Mosaic can be #1 on the bestseller list, this pleasantly dull encore/sequel may possibly win a place there too.

Pub Date: June 14th, 1982
Publisher: Linden/Simon & Schuster