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Veteran man of letters Rubin (Small Craft Advisory, The Mockingbird in the Gum Tree, both 1991, etc.) offers a tale of love and graft in early 1940s Charleston that's redolent of old novels and faded photographs and no less appealing. The prose is stately, even stilted at times, and the story old-fashioned in its gentility, but the characters Rubin creates and the portrait he draws of his native Charleston are full-fleshed and vivid. Over the course of a year, the war, which will transform the city into a major naval base, is only a distant noise, but already the local congressman and his cronies are busy pursuing profitable if questionable land deals in anticipation of a boom--deals that will be discovered by rookie reporter Mike Quinn, who landed a job on a Charleston newspaper after graduation so he could be near his fianc‚e, Betsy Murray, the daughter of one of the nefarious land developers. While Mike becomes increasingly unhappy with Betsy, who seems to have been using him just to get back her old love, another more successful love story is unfolding on the campus of Charleston College. Here, middle-aged English teacher, bachelor, and new boat-owner Dr. Rosenbaum realizes--after a number of revealing incidents, including a disastrous boat trip to nearby islands to observe turtles--that he is in love with Sara Jane, the college librarian. The couple marry at Thanksgiving, and not only survive the havoc wreaked by a new faculty appointment at the college but play cupid, too, as they introduce the now-free Mike to the eminently more suitable Polly. A final chapter tells us what happened after the war, a wrap-up that merely enhances the pleasures of the read. Literate period charm: a poignant reminder of what now seems an age of innocence.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Longstreet