A LIFE OF HER OWN by Marc Brandel
Kirkus Star

A LIFE OF HER OWN

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Literate, first-person story of an American-born Englishwoman and of her coming to terms with a life devoted to herself rather than to others--or as her Trotskyist landlady tells her in Hollywood back in 1939: ""You're an intelligent girl, too intelligent to waste your life on yourself. There's a terrible emptiness in that, in personal ambition, in having a good job, getting ahead, making money, and you're too good for it."" But Carol Clavering, daughter of British critic and poetry anthologist N.E. Clavering, is too much her own woman to follow anyone's party line. At 18 she returns to the States, trading mummification in England for the vital world of the Americans as she has imagined it from their fast-talking movies. Armed with a letter to Sinclair Lewis, she crosses the Depression-ridden States in a car with fellow-passenger Max Ludlow, a sensitive, well spoken Trotskyite, meets Lewis (brilliantly rendered) and gets a job through him as a script reader. Her affair with Max goes on back in Manhattan, but they split up because of his unyielding politics. Carol lands a job with a network news program, renews her affair with Max, now fervently with the Canadian R.A.F., and after Pearl Harbor is sent to London, where she finds him again, an emotional wreck after ghastly bombing runs. When he's shot down over Germany and thought dead, she goes back to New York, becomes a literary agent. Again Max shows up, now assured that the world's ills can be solved by psychoanalysis--he's a decade ahead of the fad's greatest flowering. They live together for years while he undergoes analysis (five sessions weekly). When they split again, this time over his overpowering Freudianism and resistance to having a child, she becomes a flee-loving Village bohemian for a few years, tires of it and goes into editing scripts for TV dramas, then marries producer Jason Stone. He's sterile but she at last fulfills her desire for a child through a four-day fling with ailing Max (now a failed candidate for Catholic priesthood) while Jason is in Madrid with a slut. By 1973, when her daughter is 15, Max has become the megalomaniacal spiritual and ecological guru of a cult off Mexico's Baja peninsula, and kidnaps his daughter to awaken her to the great Sentience he now worships. . . Brandel has a ready command of fragrant period detail, and his backgrounds about Hollywood scriptwriting, literary agenting and network TV drama, as well as Jason's later foray into producing films, are richly authentic. Carol's innocence and self-discovery and her growth into a decisively whole woman show a writer at his full powers. And Brandel's entry into a woman's character--her first bloom, her strength and endurance--is simply magical.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 1985
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin