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Caitlin Van Fleet is the daughter of the caretaker of one of the great Hudson River estates. An indiscretion as a teen-ager with the master's son sends her involuntarily packing, down to pre-war 1940 Washington to work in the office of the local congressman, a man with too-warm ties to the America Firsters and Father Coughlin and the like. When Caitlin meets a journalist named Joe Rose, who seems to have the goods on the congressman and the homegrown fascists, she finds herself torn: she has become romantically attached to a fellow female staffer, Betty--Betty who'll be killed suspiciously along with the congressman (after he has been persuaded to pull away from the fascists). Joe Rose's destiny then becomes to prove who caused the murder, but Caitlin is left drifting. She eventually leaves for New York to work in a refugee relief agency, and a son is born (by Joe Rose)--yet her life is a permanent teeter-totter from all the history she's had to swallow. Spencer (Endless Love, 1979; Waking the Dead, 1986, etc.) tells the story in jumpy fragments, now past, now present--but the antsiness only points up the lack of cohesion here, the narrative atrophy. There are flashes of Spencer's fine observation of human fraility, though the characters do not convincingly connect with each other--they seem to drift offstage when they have forgotten their exact purpose. Dialogue is surprisingly tired, and the whole production has the air of something memorially earnest but fog-enshrouded and puttied-up. Disappointing.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1990
ISBN: 1453205438
Publisher: Knopf