A HOUSE IN FLANDERS by Michael Jenkins


A Memoir
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 Pallid evocation of a summer spent in 1951 with family acquaintances in a sprawling French country house. Jenkins, now British Ambassador to the Netherlands, recalls the foibles, the petty rivalries, the domestic rituals of the various ``tantes'' and ``oncles'' he encountered during his stay, when he was but 14 years old. The family Jenkins visited centered on five women--Tantes Yvonne, Florence, Alice, ThÇräse, and Lise. Rounding out the cast are Alice's bumbling husband, Auguste, several thirtysomething children, and a handful of servants. Each individual is depicted as a well-worn stock figure: Yvonne is portrayed as elderly, unmarried, self-sacrificing, wise; ThÇräse as fawnlike and vulnerable; Alice as assertive and tightfisted; Florence's daughter, Madeleine, as dutiful but frustrated and longing to escape to Paris. One of the more effective vignettes describes the visit of a former German soldier who'd been billeted in the house during the Nazi Occupation--but here, as elsewhere, Jenkins shies away from expressing the issues in clear-cut terms and drains the confrontation of dramatic tension. Comparisons to Peter Mayle's books are probably inevitable. But where Mayle revealed a winningly idiosyncratic vision of a stranger's life in France, Jenkins remains a cipher and his adventures curiously uninvolving. (Illustrated with undistinguished line drawings.)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-670-84780-1
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993