PHILIP'S GIRL by Lucy Ferriss


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Adultery in academia--with the most familiar pairing (middle-aged male professor, young female student) given a few extra twists and layers. Philip is a ""mildly famous"" writer (The Language of Perception, The Biology of Thought), a philosophy professor at a California university; despite periodic affairs with students, he's reasonably happy with wife Joan, who does wildlife research and suspects nothing of Philip's flings; but now that his beloved, older daughter Didi has gone away to college, Philip is vulnerable, it seems, to a more compelling infidelity. ""He had to outrun them, his family and his work. Didi wanted him to play the father-teacher; the others wanted other roles. Only Annie wanted him whole, as he was, without expectations."" So Philip and student Annie, a senior who actually prefers costume-design to philosophy, become seriously involved--despite warnings to Annie from chum Mona, scarred veteran of romance-and-marriage with an older, married teacher. Annie tries hard to protect herself from the dark, submissive side of the mentor/ prot‚g‚e relationship: ""Control was the key. Cultivate detachment."" Philip, too, keeps resolving to resist impetuous passion, to bring the affair to a reasonable end soon, ""to think of his family and of the best thing to do."" But things get out of hand when daughter Didi returns to town, making friends with Annie and Mona: there are triangular, jealous, partly sexual tensions among the three women; there's a triangle, too, formed by Philip and his two ""girls,"" Didi and Annie; the situation inevitably leads to revelations--and the irrevocable breakup of Philip's marriage. And, in the final chapters, Annie and Philip, thrown together more completely than they'd planned, set off for New York via Las Vegas. . . but soon end up apart, with Philip again establishing a slightly more-than-filial connection with Didi. (""She was a woman too, Philip realized. . . What had he done to her? What had he done to all of them?"") A dry, fleshless, but precise and thoughtful first novel, better at evoking the oblique relationships than the central romance.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1985
Publisher: Schocken