A shrewd baby-boomer chronicle from a prize-winning British writer observes the children of the 1960s turning into conventional adults despite themselves.
“We’ll never grow old,” says Stephen Newman, the American science journalist at the center of Grant’s (The Clothes on Their Backs, 2008, etc.) latest novel, a wry overview of the cyclical chasm of understanding between parents and children. The particular generation in her sights is the one “born in sunshine” with the music, politics, style, drugs and opportunities of the '60s. Stephen, the never-completely-convincing son of a Jewish immigrant, arrives in Oxford in 1968 aged 22, a Rhodes Scholar and merchant seaman who sailed to England in the company of young Bill Clinton. Sent down from Oxford for defacing a book, Stephen and his girlfriend Andrea—whom he marries to avoid the draft—move via a London squat to an apartment where, as other rooms in the house fall vacant, they take them over, eventually owning a valuable property in a fashionable suburb. Andrea becomes a psychotherapist, Stephen a BBC producer. They have two children, Max and Marianne, who regards her parents’ generation as phonies who “had been given everything and squandered it.” Years pass, history impinges, bodies start to fail, the adults comprehend their own parents differently and the children find their own solutions and salvations. Not much change there then.
Although engrossing, there’s an emotional vacuum at the heart of this cool, clever critique.