A SENSIBLE LIFE by Mary Wesley
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Reminding us that a novel about society can be as ruthless in its exposure of vice and cruelty--as well as more endearing foibles--as the most outraged exposÉ, British novelist Wesley (Second Fiddle, Not That Sort of Girl) now offers a novel that is wise in its insights and witty in its cleareyed delineation of character and plot. Echoing both Elizabeth Bowen and Anthony Powell, Wesley marries Bowen's cool assessment of flawed characters with Powell's fast. paced dance through time. Characters meet, part, and meet again, and their children grow up and join in the dance. Ten-year-old Flora, the central character, the neglected child of parents obsessed with each other, is spending the year--1926--in Dinand in France before going off to school. The resort is filled with upper-class British families on holiday, but revolution is in the air as the Great Strike looms in England. Meanwhile, Flora is smitten with three young boys--the Dutch Baron Felix, and two school-friends, Cosmo and Hubert. Then Flora's parents return to India, and Flora spends seven miserable years in boarding school, relieved only by a visit to Cosmo's home, where most of the old Dinand gang has reassembled, and by a lunch with Felix. Instead of joining her parents in India when she finishes school, Flora jumps ship at Marseilles, and returns to England with Hubert. When Cosmo and Hubert fight over her, she flees and spends the next 30 years working in the country. As the years pass, Flora--still in love with all three--has occasion to make love with each man, but only one lives up to her childhood expectations. When she is nearly 50, Flora finally marries. Flora, remarkably composed and resilient, suffers all the large and petty cruelties people inflict on those they fear or find inconvenient. Wesley notes them all with a certain cool amusement--and wry pity. A rich and wonderfully satisyfing book.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1990
ISBN: 1859980112
Publisher: Viking