CELEBRATION by Mary Lee Settle


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Teresa Cerutti is a 30-ish widow, a college teacher. After a brush with cancer, she throws it all in and sets out for London in 1960 for un autre moment, ""a landscape of the past and the present that she would wander in without having to try anymore."" She had lived a fairly interesting life up till now--especially when she traveled in Turkey with her husband--but being in the British Museum one morning brings her into contact with Ewen, a Scotch geologist who is recovering from malaria contracted in Africa. Not only does Ewen bring a Conradian story of exploitation and disillusion, but his friends, too, have stories that seem each more interesting than the other. There's a young nobleman named Noel, flare. boyantly homosexual; a Congolese Catholic priest (six foot nine); a group of rough Irish hoods who have to be persuaded to return a CÉzanne they casually lifted from the Victoria and Albert. And more. Such eccentricity and variety could be very enjoyable, free-spirited--but Settle seems somewhat constrained by the need to work up a minimal plot (that the CIA is watching Teresa, convinced that all these people she knows in London are working in subversive concert). More seriously flawing, a certain monologue-esque stiffness attaches to the way the characters tell about their lives and days. Settle's strong suit as a writer is characterization, of course--but away from the West Virginia backdrops of her other books (The Killing Ground, Blood Tie, The Scapegoat), this one seems by comparison a mite stagy and audition-like.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1986
ISBN: 1570030960
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux