A barrister at the peak of his powers goes off the tracks, causing a large wreck and multiple injuries.
Alistair Langford, the self-made lawyer at the center of this intelligent and perceptive domestic drama from Stevenson (An Empty Room, 2004), could have been something of a hero in America. But it was his luck, if you want to call it that, to be born in England in the forties, near the bottom of the social ladder in Dover, where he lived as the fatherless son of a rather too-relaxed mother whose boardinghouse guests occasionally came around for more than breakfast. Blessed with great brains and drive and the friendship of neighbors Geoff and Ivy, Langford earned a scholarship to Oxford, the opportunity of a lifetime, and never looked back. Borrowing the best speech and manners available from the swells around him and fixing firmly on a career in law, he won first the approval and sponsorship of a great barrister and then the love and hand of Rosalind, a girl much more gently born. And the past in Dover? Done. As far as Rosalind or her snobbish parents knew, his “widowed” mother had died after a life of genteel labor as a translator. And, in that English way that continues to mystify talkative, thoroughly analyzed Americans, the couple built a marriage that never once addressed the difficult past. Then everything comes unglued. Langford is kneecapped in Knightsbridge, bringing to light the one great misdemeanor of his adult life. And Rosalind takes a telephone call from Ivy in Dover announcing the death of a mother-in-law she never knew she had. Stevenson skillfully weaves Alistair’s story with that of his gloriously handsome and athletic son Luke, whose recent affair with and rejection by an actress has brought him quite as low as his father.
All the considerable pleasures of John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga in modern wrapping.