DOWNSTREAM by John Rowe Townsend


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Turning to the darker side of family relationships, the well-known critic and novelist for young adults writes of a 17-year-old competing with his father for his lovely 23-year-old German tutor. When Geoff Dollis, a mildly successful artist, callously uproots his wife and son Alan from their London home to move to the country, where he has no friends and she has no job prospects, it is typical of his self-centered, belligerent attitude toward family life. And Kath Dollis, rigid and unimaginative, is hardly the woman to hold a philandering husband's attention for long. When Geoff blows a windfall check on a bit of land with a shack downriver, it becomes Alan's escape place; he and London chum Wendy fix up the shack and enjoy a blossoming friendship until Alan demands more than Wendy will give. But tutor Vivien Briggs makes Alan forget Wendy; though she is carefully cool with her student, their friendship also grows until Alan, in an awkward schoolboy declaration, forces her to terminate it. Then Alan discovers that Vivien and Geoff are having an affair; he confronts them, gets a violent response from Geoff, and reacts by forestalling their next tryst by making a Guy Fawkes bonfire of the shack. Unpleasant as these people are, callow Alan's attitudes are painfully plausible in the son of parents who have failed to grow during their adulthood; the outcome of his punitive act--his father moves out--is an ironically mixed blessing. A true book; though not fun to read, it should speak to youth with similar troubles.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1987
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Lippincott