THE GOLDEN CALVES by Louis Auchincloss
Kirkus Star


Email this review


Leave it to the indefatigable Auchincloss to discover within the unlikely realm of museum management a drama worthy of his moral imagination. Business and ethics, love and power, art and ego all collide in this utterly absorbing tale of modern Manhattan--a perfectly crafted novel that trades on an insider's knowledge of trusts and estates, and on familiarity with the class of people to whom such things matter most. Tucked away on Central Park West, the Museum of North America needs a windfall, the kind of generous bequest that will ease its way into big-league museumdom. And the wealthy collector, Evelyn Speddon, is just the kind Of benefactor the museum's chairman has in mind, The only hitch lies in the old woman's will, with its numerous conditions, all meant to preserve her vast collection intact. Board chairman, Sidney Claverack, a ruthless and unscrupulous lawyer, promises the permanent directorship to its acting director, Mark Addams, if the latter--an ambitious former PR-man--can talk Miss Speddon into unbinding her will. He does so by courting Miss Speddon's ward, the frail and plain Anita Vogel, herself an assistant curator at the museum who's lived with her match-making patroness in the latter's Murray Hill mansion for over three years. The spinster's death sets off all sorts of power struggles--in the courts, on the museum's board, and among its staff. The family of board-member Peter Hewlett--also a rich collector--finds itself embroiled in another contest of wills. On this occasion, the young and handsome Addams manages to make up for his previously unethical behavior, and proves to be a far more likable character than Robert Service, the yuppie diarist of Auchincloss' last novel. The satisfyingly neat ending also includes just deserts for the Nixonian Claverack. Surely one of Auchincloss' best, and just maybe the one to bring him the critical acclaim he deserves.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1988
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin