FACING THE MUSIC by Mary Sheepshanks


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An enjoyable, faintly sly account of upper-caste English domestic folderol--more of the entertaining same from Sheepshanks (A Price for Everything, 1996)--concerns a gifted flautist whose romantic life has the progression of a shaky sonatina: first, a loveless passion, then a passionless love, finally a peerless passion and regard. Pretty Flavia's major performance with an orchestra conducted by sexy lover Antoine is ruined when the young woman is flattened by a sudden illness. Antoine, your basic rotter, levels blame and storms away. Devastated, Flavia convalesces at the estate of her parents, a charming, wise father and failed pianist mother who invests all her emotional capital in her daughter's career. Also visiting is avuncular, kindly Gervaise, headmaster of a boys' prep school. Gervaise, tactful and tolerant, is a superb administrator and loves children. A thoroughly good sort, he serves as a rock in Flavia's stormy emotional pool. Meanwhile, Gervaise is beginning to feel he should marry (were the boys calling him ""perv""?), and all imagine his choice will be the school aide who adores him, the good, good Meg. Alas, Gervaise proposes instead to young Flavia, who's still recovering from illness and Antoine. The two marry, but then mischief enters in the person of widower Alistair, whose kiss after a dance once left Flavia ""gasping as if underwater."" Flavia and Alistair begin to smolder; Flavia returns to the flute; and the affair bursts into full flame after a wild chase for runaway Alistair's son Ben (who attends Gervaise's school) and an idyll on a Scottish isle. Now Flavia must face the music--and gentle Gervaise. With lively women and elegant men, the marvelous silliness of school gossip, and that hyperbolic witty slang that eases the path of both the just and unjust, it's a droll go. Mary Wesley fans take note.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1997
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's