THE STING OF THE WASP by Katharine Mortimer

THE STING OF THE WASP

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this novel, a kind of autobiographical roman á cleaver (the author has scores to settle), the broadest target is the East Coast WASP Old Guard society--a bastion of male rule in which the protagonist was spawned and raised in the 20's and 30's, and within which a woman can be ""straight-armed"" out of money and reputation, as well as deflected from investigating possible wrongdoing. The narrator, a woman of the St. James family (à clan accomplished in the ""art of doing very little with style""), begins by sketching the character and evolution since the turn of the century of the WASP Old Family, where immaculate bloodlines and inherited money matter most. She touches lightly upon the male-bonding mechanisms of schools and clubs that produce family bankers and lawyers to manage the affairs of ""the princesses of capitalism,"" who are at their mercy. These women ""form a tapestry against which the men play out their roles."" WASP women ""never. . .are driven to despair,"" however; ""they are merely disappointed."" (""Anything that cuts deep is described as a disappointment."") Then down to particulars as to how Ms. St. James was done in by the good old boys. After two divorces, she will marry manic-depressive Tom, who will commit suicide--or is it suicide? The widow's snooping--wedging in where the Male Establishment is determined she won't--discloses that Tom's death was never investigated. She takes a trip after the funeral (an elegant visit to Austria) and, back in an old family summer colony, reviews her shaky but slowly liberating status as well as the evidence of a very stylish and accomplished cover-up. After the initial Florence King-style WASP-bashing, the story of a possible murder meanders and muddies in the heat of the author's fist-drumming. It's rather fuzzy but intermittently amusing fiction; and the autobiographical tell, all may appeal to those acquainted with real, parallel events in the author's history.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 1987
Publisher: Freundlich--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40 St., New York, NY 10016)