Gerber (This Is a Voice from Your Past, p. 71, etc.) gives a spot-on rendition of collegiate girlhood circa 1959, when, for women, the only options to marriage were teaching or nursing.
Francie is a New Yorker, transplanted to the University of Florida and rooming with Mary Lou, who spends her time reading bridal magazines and fantasizing about finding a husband before graduation. By chance, Francie meets Liz and Amanda, two blonde and slightly rebellious coeds who become her “teachers of life” (they take her to a party where a man whispers passages in her ear from the then banned Lady Chatterley’s Lover). Second semester, the three rent a house off-campus with Liz’s boyfriend Bill and the twin brothers he works with. The delicious anticipation of living together focuses at first on shared meals, though Francie is clearly expecting overtures from one of the twins—until it becomes clear not only that Liz and Bill are really a couple (Francie discovers Liz’s contraceptive jelly—“proof!”) but that the twins are interested mainly in each other. Eventually, Francie meets Joshua, a pianist with dark curly hair and strong shoulders, and soon they’re making out on a secluded bench after curfew. Francie’s feelings about sexuality—her curiosity, willingness to experiment despite pressures to retain her virginity, her fear she’s gotten pregnant through heavy petting, her discovery that a prof is gay and having an affair with a student she knows—are presented with a combined naiveté and desire that are appropriate to the decade before the sexual revolution. Her gradual steps toward the life she might lead after graduation include difficult decisions and the courage to go against convention.
A delightful period piece that brings to life an era of sexual tension and innocence as three “glimmering girls” discard their innocence to become “illuminated women.”