POLONAISE by Piers Paul Read
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Polonaise, n. a slow dance of Polish origin, in triple meter, consisting chiefly of a march or promenade in couples. Bankrupt by 1929, Count Kornowski was capable only of passing down a legacy of shock and disillusion to his children, Stefan and Krystyna, and the burden of his care as well since he had lost his mind along with his property. Stefan is permitted to continue his education in Warsaw while Krystyna works in a jewelry shop. Both are drawn into Communism and into marriages with Party members but whereas Krystyna always sees her task clearly set before her, Stefan, a writer, is deflected by his aesthetics from commitments of any sort. He becomes merely a cynical observer, stepping out of his Socialist principles into a kind of George Sanders role--""I was never able to tell the difference between what I think and what I really think."" They are separated by the War, reunited again in Paris in the Fifties and attempt to see Krystyna's son, Teofil, happily married to Annabel, a distraught child from the English peerage, whose family regard the Kornowskis as ""Continental riffraff."" Stefan is at last given the opportunity to perform a decisive act. But is it so decisive? His discursive nature gives him no rest and his life ends as he lived it, unfulfilled. Read writes novels that never quite connect with the audience he deserves; they're attractive, knowledgeable of the mores of people from many walks of life--particularly the British upper classes--and they're heightened with speculations of a philsophical order which are perhaps more engaging than completely satisfying.

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1976
Publisher: Lippincott