Fresh young love is no match for the Oedipal variety.
Say this for Maureen Garraty: affected and attention-seeking she may be, but she isn’t your conventional gold digger. Two years after marrying Theo, a filthy-rich Floridian, she splits: the very pretty, very animated Maureen claims he’s too dull. In 1972, she decamps to London with her small son Gordon. Her plan, undeterred by a lack of academic credentials, is to write an art guide to great European cities. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, mother and son crisscross the Continent, Theo, generous to a fault, bankrolling their trips. That Maureen is a dilettante we know already; far more damning, she’s also a lifelong plagiarist, as Gordon, our narrator, finally acknowledges. He doesn’t get much schooling, but Maureen self-servingly buys him a camera so he can document their travels, and his photographic skills land him a job freelancing for discount catalogues. By now Gordon is 19, living alone for the first time, in London. He falls in love with Annie, who works in a deli but has a mind of her own, is older and sexually experienced—unlike still-virgin Gordon. Too often Haythe’s story seems becalmed, but here it picks up a breeze in tracing the nakedness and idealism of first love. The two jump into marriage but delay the honeymoon for a year so Maureen and her new friend Gerhardt can join them at a grand hotel in Venice. The honeymoon turns sour for Gordon once he learns that the Swiss-German Gerhardt is engaged to his mother. His ardor for Annie cools (they make love only once) as his loathing for Gerhardt intensifies: his sexual jealousy is made explicit when he imagines Gerhardt’s “black poisonous fluids.” The climax comes when Maureen stabs Annie’s hand with a fork and Gordon sits idly by. His inaction dooms their marriage.
A languid debut. Haythe has potential, but his inability to distinguish the significant detail from the insignificant makes his vision hazy.