BELGRAVE SQUARE by Rachel Summerson


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There's a women's-Lib banner trembling above this forthright wallow in the juicier stratum of the Victorian double standard; but the slight appeal here comes from routine romance fiddles--as some well-to-do London ladies of the Peat family respond to the prods of passion. Flora is the only Peat female without guile, frills, or furbelows; so she of course expects, as does her social-climber mother Sarah, that she'll be the family spinster. Quite different, then, is her beautiful, lustful sister Blanche, who gallops after a man who stirs the baser passions, becomes pregnant and marries. Or pitiful sister Adaline, a tight-lipped sort of stunning religiosity, who sees her marriage to Dr. Charles Woodcock as a ""godly duty"" to serve humanity through Charles--a flabby, money-grubbing fathead whose wedding-night assault on the unprepared Adeline turns her into a martyred victim. (But Adeline eventually learns of Charles' ""firkytootling"" with scarlet ladies, bellows with rage, has a miscarriage, and in relief returns to Papa for good.) Or sister-in-law Geraldina, who slips out of an extramarital affair just in time to save her reputation, props husband Ernest Peat into a ""masterful"" marital posture (which delights the poor sap), and quietly plans for a satisfying future of affairs. As for Flora, she's content to be a bluestocking and even read Darwin--which shocks Sir George Kingsley (to whose library she has access). The two will have shouting rows about propriety and pomposity and role-playing deceptions in both sexes, but at the last, they will find an appropriate level of intellect, honesty, and love. A somewhat obvious and tinny vehicle for stewing about Victorian sex-roles--with little style or class.

Pub Date: Dec. 16th, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's