THE GOOD HUSBAND by Pamela Hansford Johnson
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In The Good Listener (1975) Toby Roberts, a scholarship lad who made it to Cambridge, awaited definition. Here, through his marriage to Ann, a widow with two young sons, Toby finds his own small parade ground in the vast muddle of the Sixties. All during Toby's headlong courtship of the somewhat older Ann, she remains marvelously cool, beautiful, and self-possessed. He adores her, sex is good after marriage, and the couple is secure enough to offer comfort and advice to their rather less settled old friends--widowed Maisie (whom Toby had once loved and rejected); and handsome, dull Episcopal priest Adrian, who is terrorized by over-the-hill Rita (former wife of Toby's old chum Bob) till she's murdered by a new lover. But, throughout, Toby is shadowed by the person of his mother, a now famous self-taught painter whose vogue is just beginning to fade. Mrs. Roberts is respectful of Ann, but Maisie's the one she loved (she once painted her in a sunny meadow); and, as Ann becomes more loving and lowers her defenses, Toby, inexplicably, returns to the idea of Maisie, the excitement of a youthful time just-past. He makes adulterous overtures; Ann, distraught, becomes jealous and vulnerable. But when Mrs. Roberts dies, Toby's passion for Maisie abruptly cools, and he has a terrifying dream in which Mrs. Roberts presents him with his portrait--a blank canvas. Comforting himself with resolve--he'll be completely faithful to Ann and he'll plunge into a new business partnership--Toby looks forward to a good marriage (with perhaps a cat) and to becoming ""a young man of his time."" Delicate, subtle, and unsettlingly acute, this anatomy of a marriage--through its dialogue-studded pointillist technique--also reaches out to illuminate more than a few of our contemporary mores.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1979
Publisher: Scribners