THE CHRYSANTHEMUM GARDEN by Joseph Cowley

THE CHRYSANTHEMUM GARDEN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A rather drowsy love story--circa 1965-1980--in which the only really interesting thing about the lovers is their age range: it's a December/September romance. Fifty-year-old Scarsdale housewife Morna Franklin is fairly certain she still loves thick-hided, chauvinist husband Frank, but she longs to find and express her ""real self""--so she breaks away to take a poetry course at Manhattan's New School. The teacher is ""America's foremost poet,"" 70-year-old Denison McArdle, who's ""so unlike Frank."" Informal class meetings lead to walks and talks for two, Fire Island, and then--as Morna absents herself from Frank awhile--Denny's summer home in New Hampshire. The two, now lovers, share tales of their spouses and children: Denny's fiery, fine, alcoholic wife, Mary; his daughter Flora, a Hollywood actress who brutally rejected her parents; the terrible automobile death of Morna's adored daughter Kathy; her concern over cool daughter Martha and druggy, boozy, drifting son Jeffrey. So, in Denny's New York apartment (where Edmund Wilson comes to visit) and in the beauty of New Hampshire, Denny and Morna congratulate themselves for finding each other; for Denny, it's a new chance to love, and for Morna, it's the light of day after life in a psychic cellar. Finally, however, there are two funerals: Frank's (at which Jeffrey turns back to examine the road not taken); and Denny's, after which the mourning, achingly lonely Morna, infused with a vision of Denny and his love, knows ""everything was going to be all right."" Rich in conviction about sunset romance, but scanty in characters--Denny's supposed literary heft is completely unconvincing--and emotive vigor.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1981
ISBN: 0595001734
Publisher: Simon & Schuster