TEMPTATIONS by Stewart Richardson

TEMPTATIONS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two years (1968, '69) in the life of 40-ish N.Y. executive Charles Harrison--who narrates this well-bred but unfocused and stubbornly shallow first novel. Charles starts out in the throes of marital disintegration: wife Peggy is flagrantly carrying on an affair with a young Rutgers professor (Charles is made to feel intellectually and sexually inferior); there are flashbacks to Charles' own many infidelities. Eventually, then, after other, more wistful flashbacks, Charles walks out, gets a Mexican divorce, leaves the house and two kids to Peggy, broods on his loneliness, has casual sex with a couple of company secretaries . . . and starts failing in love with beautiful young colleague Phyllis (""we began the ecstatic undulation that I have always found indescribable""). Meanwhile, too, Charles is disturbed by the nasty (but dullish) office politics going on at Leasex, Inc.--where he's worked for years (boss Frank is his old Dartmouth chum) and is now a VP. But then, apparently aware of the static nature of all this material, Richardson violently changes gears halfway through--with a jolt of melodrama: Charles' wife and daughter (along with the Rutgers prof) are killed in a car accident; only teenage son Chucko survives. And the rest of the novel deals primarily with Chucko's slow acceptance of the growing Charles/Phyllis romance: there's pregnancy and marriage ahead, along with Charles' virtuous, loyal triumph over his hypocritical enemies at Leasex. Unfortunately, however, Charles remains an unappealing, self-indulgent hero throughout this bland mix of romance, family soap, and boardroom tangles; there's only a frail, vague suggestion that his character undergoes any development during these traumatic two years. Moreover, his prose, occasionally arch or sharp, becomes increasingly fiat and sentimental as the story drifts from bitterness to treacle. A mostly familiar, oddly empty midlife crisis, then--with some posh trimmings (a Newport wedding, a Stowe skiing party, lots of restaurants) to brighten things up a bit.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1982
Publisher: Morrow