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Like a pale juice wrung from Yates' last three works of fiction (A Good School, Liars In Love, Young Hearts Crying), this is the thinnest example of an opus more and more steadily mannered--but, worse, also somewhat (and pointlessly) mean. Yates delights in shallow dis-expectation: he sets up scenes of foolish people building hopes way beyond any foundation in reality--and then having those hopes dashed with an authorial swift-kick. Yates' characters therefore must always be feebs, straw men, in order to be light enough for the knocking-down. Here they are, variously: Evan Shepard, son of a disappointed ex-career-Army-man--who in turn is rejected for the draft in WW II and spends the rest of his life in a state of profound rudderlessness; his silly wife, Rachel; and, as central as Evan, Rachel's mother, Gloria Drake, a woman by now a type in Yates' fiction: a divorcÉe with children and no money but with great affectations and more than a touch of mental imbalance. Gloria's great desire, once her daughter has married Evan Shepard, is to move to Cold Spring Harbor, the classy little town on Long Island's North Shore where Evan's parents live in no great splendor. It takes putting together a household, including Evan and Rachel and her youngest son Phil, to accomplish this--a household made thoroughly miserable by one another--but she does it, no matter what the psychological cost. The entire narrative thrust here (more like a limp, drowning wave) is the dissolution of ridiculous dreams these poor souls might have had about their lives. And in like manner is how Yates seems to construct these latest novels--all too predictably joking together pathetic cases so they can all seem the drabber, more unredeemed, and pull each other down down down. Classic realism can be bleak--always is, in a way--but it should never seem petty. Yates comes off petty.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1986
ISBN: 0385295960
Publisher: Delacorte