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British satire from Bracewell (The Crypto-Amnesia Club, 1988--not reviewed) that follows a man and the three women who love him, much to their misfortune, from their small-town roots in the 1970's into the 1980's. Bracewell's style, though very urbane, sometimes patronizes its people, and the pleasures of this soufflÉ--witty turns of phrase, slick plotting--are minor ones that too soon wear thin. Miles Harrier (""The depth of his emotional slumber was extreme"") is a ne'er-dowell fated to be loved by three women he's known since adolescence: Kelly O'Kelly, a performance artist full of regret and tearful outbursts, is ""to play a major role in the life of Miles Harrier"" and ""due to fall hopelessly in love with him"" after a childhood punctuated by an unsigned Valentine sent by her family ""to cheer her up""; Lucinda Fortune also loves him, though ""the vision they had shared as children could only have narrowed""; and Stella Walker-Jones, sexually repressed, is a fashion model who lives in a ""curious mixture of country gentility and suburban snobbishness."" Bracewell orchestras episodes while ruminating frequently: ""Girls, as a race, elude the simple classification into 'types' so favoured by beer-hall analysts throughout the ages."" Finally, O'Kelly, jealous and atop a tall building, sees Lacinda kissing Miles below and jumps to her death, killing Lucinda in the process, whereupon Miles ""was free to fall in love with Stella. The deaths had brought them together."" He believes in ""Stella as both truth and bliss. . . ,"" but the lovers have sexual problems. By the end, a wedding has been planned, and some slapstick on the brink of the ceremony (a farmer's dog gets loose in the church) brings the whole thing mercifully to a close (along with a subplot used as counterpoint to the adventures of Miles). More glib than erudite, though this one might have some appeal for inveterate Anglophiles addicted to the suburban comedy of manners.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
Publisher: Knopf