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A tart and persuasive portrait of an uncertain young woman's discovery of her heart's true needs. This is not new terrain for Wesley (An Imaginative Experience, 1995, A Dubious Legacy, 1992, etc.), who has often before tracked characters stumbling along the long path to something like real love. No one does it better: Her prose is simple and precise, her view of love's varying needs and confusions exact, her skewering of human foibles amused and exact. Juno Marlowe is, as the novel opens, attempting to escape an air raid. She is in London, in the early days of World War II, and has just said farewell to two young men going off to join their regiment. She has loved both Jonty and Francis since childhood; they, having decided with the chilling ruthlessness of youth that it won't do to go off to war as virgins, have managed to talk the insecure Juno into sleeping with both of them. Juno is given shelter during the air raid by Evelyn Copplestone, a polished, evidently wealthy, dour individual, who is also mortally ill. He makes Juno promise to take a letter to his father in the country, and dies before morning. Partly as an excuse to avoid being shipped off to Canada, and away from Jonty and Francis, the until-now pliable Juno pursues her quixotic mission, showing a surprising independence. Robert Copplestone, despite his despair at the loss of his wife and, now, his son, gives Juno shelter. His odd, somewhat raffish household begins to arouse her exuberant enjoyment of life; to her amazement, Juno, at first stunned by the discovery that her night with Jonty and Francis has left her pregnant, begins to develop a new frankness and sense of purpose. Amazed, she finds herself deeply attracted to Robert. It's some testament to Wesley's skill that the unlikely romance between Robert and Juno seems both right and entirely believable. An elegant, satisfying entertainment.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Viking