THE LAST WALTZ by Nancy Zaroulis


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Traumas galore shiver the tightly-laced stays of mid-19th-century Back Bay ladies--through another Zaroulis exercise in historical feminist outrage. (Call the Darkness Light, 1979, took place in the satanic mills of Lawrence, Mass.) The message is all skewed and deflected, however, with crammed plotting and muddy characters. The narrator is Marion Childs, born into humble circumstances, who is taken on as a companion/secretary by the rich, banker/merchant January family--after the accidental death of her younger brother George and the madness and disappearance of her unstable, widowed mother. (There's the strong possibility that the beautiful Isabel January was responsible for George's death.) The Januarys are stand-offish at first; but Marion will eventually become Isabel's closest friend, particularly after Marion is left a fortune by old Uncle James January. And it will be Marion who observes Isabel's passion for Lawrence Cushing, a ""sea-god"" Lothario who jilts her just when the pair are about to elope--leaving bereft Isabel to marry stodgy Avery Kittredge, a stereotypical paternalistic bully. Furthermore, international playboy Lawrence returns from time to time to tease and reject--at one point Isabel crawls after him on hands and knees. So, forced into child-birthings (there's a violent marital rape), restless and miserable, Isabel throws herself into Society and sets out to become the social ruler of posh Newport. Meanwhile, Marion also gets a bummer of a husband: Perseus Motley, a horrid little kingpin of the Watch and Ward Society, who remains chaste. So she takes a lover but loses him--and their child too--while other social storms bubble: poet Ned January ends his life after Perseus' gang bans his book; Isabel's daughter Victoria runs off with a sexy actor; Elinor January, who hates the idleness of the rich, flees to England. And finally, revived by Elinor's daughter Diane, tragedy-soaked Marion will take gaslit revenge on murderous Perseus. Along the way there are glimpses of socially approved atrocities and sexual double-standards. But, drowned out by enough woeful crises for 20 soaps, the feminist perspective and the Boston-period details go largely to waste here.

Pub Date: April 13th, 1984
Publisher: Doubleday