SWALLOW HARD by Sarah Gaddis


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A self-indulgent first novel about an arty young heiress who grows up just enough to wax nostalgic about the good old days--when she was free to be a spoiled child. Rollin Thompkins is the daughter of faded southern belle Sally Ann and critically acclaimed novelist Lad Thompkins, More to the point, she is the goddaughter of wealthy arts patron Douglas Kipps. The childhood that Rollin lives--and relives--is one of summer houses and parties with painters, musicians, and writers. Later, after her parents split up, there is boarding school, paid for by her godfather, and visits to the legendary Peninghen, the estate that Kipps has turned into a retreat for artists, complete with tennis courts, gazebo, and a freshly planted yew maze. The central tragedy of Rollin's life comes when Douglas Kipps is suddenly killed. Rollin is left a great deal of money, as well as a stake in Peninghen, but it doesn't fill the void she feels. She turns to painting and takes up residence at Peninghen, but she's spinning her wheels. Finally, after a sojourn in California, she returns to realize that she'll never completely make peace with her memories--that no matter how well her own painting is going, life isn't the same as it was when she was five years old and posing for her portrait to be painted by a renowned artist. It is the merest sliver of self-realization, but it's all that's served up in this overbaked soufflÇ of nostalgia. It falls flat because Rollin is so secure--and misguided--in her notions of tragedy. The people she idealizes in childhood are people Whose reaction to Kennedy's assassination is annoyance: it has caused the Harvard-Yale game to be cancelled. A bland slice of life, cut only from the upper crust, and hard to swallow.

ISBN: 689-12106-7
Publisher: Atheneum
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