FATHERING by Nicholas Delbanco


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Even if Mr. Delbanco has abandoned some of his most capricious stylistic tics, Fathering is still pretty heavy weathering and the occasional word remains "echoic" of perhaps Durrell, not so much in the shifting perspectives -- there's that -- but in the truly pate de foie gras prose. Some of it is romantic and elegant particularly in the paraphernalia it summons up; too much of it is another thing. The story which advances slowly and sometimes not at all concerns the search of Robert Mueller for his progenitors who have not really been revealed to him; his worldly, melancholy grandmother Elizabeth, wife of Hans, drops him as an infant with a French couple before he is moved and brought up by her son Alexander and his wife Susan whom Robert -- when he's old enough -- will share. In what seems to be a grandly generous family tradition since Hans and Alexander and then Robert will also know -- in the biblical sense -- Chloe who is probably Robert's mother but by Hans? or Alexander? Robert's estranged and vague and footless years of wandering are indeed justified although by the close (Elizabeth commits suicide; Hans dies; Alexander shoots himself but only succeeds in losing his sight; etc., etc.) all these "linkages" and "couplings" will not have corroborated his "provenance" or restored his real and psychic identity, both a word and a concern which have become the cliche of our time.
Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 1973
ISBN: 0688002137
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1973


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