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THE BEST OF FRIENDS by Kathleen Conlon



Pub Date: Dec. 27th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's

Two old friends are married at different times to the same man--in a novel that lacks the rich verisimilitude of Conlon's working-class enclave in A Forgotten Season (1981) but again captures the self-consciousness of shaky, caste-plagued Englishwomen muddling through love and marriage. Fanny Lovell is an orphan, raised by worshipful old Gran in tacky working-class Lancashire digs, always anxious about ""fitting in."" Lorna Livesy is the only child of a wretchedly paired couple in a posh suburb, always role-playing to appease her philandering father and bitter mother. So, meeting at the exclusive school to which Fanny has won a scholarship, the girls recognize each other as ""fellow dissemblers, fellow victims of other people's actions."" Their ways must part, however, when Gran's crippling accident ends Fanny's college plans. And soon Fanny is largely preoccupied with Martin Cope, an art student of absolute ego (he has erased his working-class roots) who loves-and-leaves repeatedly . . . while Lorna, a successful academic, has become engaged to Dr. Charles Fielding, handsome and gently reared. It's Fanny whom Dr. Charles marries first, however: left pregnant by Martin, with baby Philip soon arriving, a very ill and very randy Fanny receives a friendly professional visit from Charles--and marvelous sex leads to the altar. The marriage wobbles; the child Philip is glum and angry; the return of Martin brings the only ""love"" Fanny understands. (""An unslakable thirst, a degrading desire to matter, a knife in the gut""--and ultimate mental breakdown.) So there'll be a divorce--and now Charles will marry Lorna, who hopes, somewhat vainly, that he will ""save me from retreating so far into myself."" An over-attenutated but grimly responsible portrait of two confused women--awaiting redemption by men who somehow just don't measure up.