Kirkus Reviews QR Code
OLD SCORES by Nicholas Delbanco

OLD SCORES

By Nicholas Delbanco

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1997
ISBN: 0-446-52046-2

A sad, convincing, autumnal tale of love lost, found, and lost again, by old pro Delbanco (In the Name of Mercy, 1995, etc.). Paul Ballard and Elizabeth Sieverdsen first meet at Catamount College, in Vermont, in the halcyon 1960s. He's an appealing young philosophy professor, modest, incisive, somewhat otherworldly, rumored to be bound for great things. She's a bright, frank, determined student who finds herself increasingly drawn to the kindly if distant Paul, and she wears down his wary reserve. Their fevered affair comes to an abrupt end when Paul is struck by a hit- and-run driver. His body shattered, despairing about his future, and guilty about his affair with Elizabeth, he sends her away. Angry and hurt, she goes. Paul's body heals, but he remains a recluse, publishing some acclaimed books but pursuing a solitary existence in rural Vermont. Elizabeth, meanwhile, marries a charming if somewhat passive Italian adman and settles down in his native village, where she raises two bright, demanding children. The marriage ends after they go off to college, and Elizabeth, at loose ends, troubled by her past, goes in search of Paul. Their reunion, filled with hesitancies, anger, and a growing awareness of their undimmed yearning for each other, is deftly handled. It seems, briefly, as if Elizabeth, now 48, has finally rediscovered the life she had once believed would be hers. Then sudden illness once more breaks the lovers apart. This is melodramatic stuff, and in less assured hands it would seem flat and unremarkable. Delbanco, though, narrates his lovers' plight in a spare, emotionally exact tone, and his characters have the complexity and fragility of real life. A moving exploration of a believably passionate love, and of its subtle, powerful, persistent impact on the lives of two stubborn romantics.