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Catherine Mansure is married to former Berkeley radical and now foundation director Rick; they live on Rick's family's land, a vast tract south of San Francisco. Just as Rick contracts a post-polio syndrome that leaves him increasingly weakened, Catherine coincidentally meets a fiddle-playing, marijuana-growing local man, Henry Bascombe--and her physical attraction to him rolls over her like a typhoon. Bascombe's natural-man courtesy and poised humility contrast with world-burner Rick's mastery (even more accentuated when body-power seems to desert him). Throw in a small extended family--a son, Ben; Rick's old aunt, who owns the land just now; and Bascombe's own daughter--and you have an update of Lady Chatterley's Lover, one that is less idyll than subject to the repercussions of social ideology. Roper (Mexico Days, 1989; On Spider Creek, 1978, etc.)--besides stuffing Rick's mouth full of sorehead men's-movement talk (""You monopolize all right feeling, you dominate the culture, control the spiritual airwaves completely. And yet you want our constant attention, too. Why there's nothing left, really nothing at all. The answer to 'What does woman want?' is everything--more than everything, much more"")--has given Bascombe and Catherine so little palpability that you often forget you're reading a novel and take all this for an essay on modern sexual manners, done in broad, magisterial, generalized sweeps. As a writer, Roper is a smart, long-view abstractionist--but he's swung too far in the other direction from Lawrence's embarrassing, squishy rhapsody and given us instead a diagnostic lecture.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin