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Nell Dunn explored alternative family life styles in England after her own marriage--six years, three children--dissolved amicably, and these annotated vignettes and casual interviews are the results of her search. There is substantial variety in the communal arrangements, from highly structured rotational parenthood to virtual anarchy, and widespread emphasis on the Importance of individual growth and opportunity: ""courageous"" is a big word here, ""free"" is another, and ""couple"" is a dirty one. Primarily city households, few include occupants with traditional jobs--one is an unemployable bird brain-surgeon, most prefer creative pursuits like pottery and woodworking--and some homes show all the sexual trendiness and disintegrative elements familiar from trashy TV shows: one woman notes ""the longest monogamous relationship I've had is three months"" and elsewhere Dunn observes ""A tame white rabbit runs about the house, chewing the coconut matting and pissing on the beds of people he doesn't like."" But others reflect sincere, ongoing efforts to construct and revise family structures to suit the needs of all involved, and women especially seem to benefit from pooled resources and shared responsibilities. Those sympathetic to Dunn's position (""There is no fight way or wrong way to live; there is only what you want"") will applaud these approaches, despite the tentative successes and astonishingly high turnover in most of the households. But comments from the participants and Dunn's frequent appreciations won't convince the skeptics, who'll see adults ignoring certain issues and waffling on others. An enterprising investigation but too inconclusive for popular consumption.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1977
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich