CHEZ CORDELIA by Kitty Burns Florey


Email this review


An immensely appealing account of a young woman's life coming into slippery focus, while, as in Florey's recent Family Matters, perceptions of early familial relationships fuzz around the edges or re-align. Cordelia Miller, fourth and last child of a famous poet in Connecticut, is a bewilderment. In a home where people read instead of clean and eat snacks of anchovy paste and olives, Cordelia loves junk food and hates reading. So she escapes at age 19--through marriage to her old Remedial Reading classmate, Danny Frontenac, whose parents own deliciously weathered Hector's Grocery. Their apartment over the store is heaven: Sugar Pops, a monk-jar full of Oreos, and no books! And then comes one tidy year in a New Haven hi-rise with TV, a fake marble-topped table, and more cookies. But then Danny, unhinged by the loss of his inheritance--his parents abruptly sell the store--disappears, apparently for good. So dispossessed Cordelia, again following her rapid affections and her sour swerves from the glancing ""verbiage"" of her family, begins a soul journey. She works peacefully in a hardware store until the owner's son Malcolm, a ""Mr. America of boredom,"" traps her into ugly sex when he discovers her stealing--result of her ache to own ""without the intervention of money."" There's a jumpy interlude of living with anorexia-bound sister Juliet and her health-food fanatic lover (""mung bean sprouts looked like little humanoids. . . I dreamed of Big Macs and jelly doughnuts""). And she finds friends and warmth as a ""salad girl"" at a fine French restaurant. But Danny returns, strange and dangerous, and Cordelia hides out as country-house cook for the unhappily wed Lambertis: aristocrat Martha (who teaches Cordelia haute cuisine) and bookseller Paul (with whom Cordelia falls in love). There are rough times ahead--the end of the affair with Paul, the nightmare of Danny's murder of Malcolm--but finally there's Cordelia's recognition of her honest love for her family in an ""infinite, unpatterned life,"" leading to the strengthening home self: ""chez Cordelia."" Yeasty with bright recognitions and hard-won insights--indisputably warming work from a growing talent.

Pub Date: Dec. 2nd, 1980
Publisher: Seaview--dist. by Harper & Row