OTHER LIVES by Sarah Woodhouse


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 In her period novels and in the delightful Meeting Lily (1995), this British author's women have frequently been absorbed in untangling domestic and amorous messes. Here, in a new novel set in England and on a paradisiacal stretch of Greek coastline, it's no different: A gracefully self-propelled widow of 63 eludes the snares set by well-intended children as she probes for the hidden meaning in an old romance. To the wonder of her three children and three grandchildren, Lucy Fletcher seems neither surprised nor gratified when she is bequeathed, in the will of famous archeologist Oliver Lussom, a beautiful home on a remote Greek beach. Elder son Chris, who like his late father is an insensitive dud, expects her to sell, which will facilitate her move from the homely rambling house she shares with the writer ``Turk'' (nÇe Marianne), a younger chum with the tongue of a seagoing parrot. Lucy's daughter is a widow, darkly garbed and heavily, depressingly, into religion. Chris's wife Laura, a '60s flower child now grown and miserable, is perpetually in tears because Chris wants a divorce, and her two kids try fruitlessly to escape their mother's damp lamentations. Meanwhile, much wine is poured and a variety of agonies aired as Lucy relives her blazing relationship with Oliver. In flashbacks, Lucy's discovery of love and passion at 19 illuminates a childhood and youth that had been made barren by the cold, offhand parenting of her own widowed archeologist father: ``. . . love, far from shedding light, only showed up the darkness.'' But at the close, serenity and brighter days seem to be in store for Lucy and her descendants (even her lonely younger son finds a tender love). Then, of course, there's the healing influence of Greek sun and heat and an endless blue sea. Woodhouse's style is light and pleasing, though most of her characters, unlike those in Meeting Lily, stay a bit pallid here. Still, the chat is diverting, the scenery luscious.

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15185-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1996


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