FATHERS by Virginia Budd


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As in this English author's Running to Paradise (1989), romantic portraits of bounteously loving beset, upper-class English rebels are reassembled from flotsam cast up by the past--diaries, reminiscences, and letters. Here, a brace of pre-WW I lovers--as well as the grandson of one, who in the present ferrets out their story--have been shadowed by the ghosts of their dead fathers: a white knight, a monster, and a drunken suicide. In 1901, as a child in London, Lally--adored by, and adoring, her warmly companiable and affectionate father--observes with a child's fascinated horror what terrible things the father of her brother's friend Julian Wolf is doing next door. There are beatings and screams; then one night when Mrs. Wolf is climbing a garden wall to escape, it's Lally's father who rushes to her rescue and is killed for his gallantry. Some years later, in Paris, Lally meets Julian and sees him perform brilliant comic monologues in a cabaret. Eventually, the souvenir of that performance--a cheap ""lucky cat"" cutout--finds its way back to Lally, at 99, when David, Julian's grandson (who never knew Julian, the family black sheep), presents her with it. Impressed by Lally, David sleuths the past--a search that carries through Lally's death. There will be glimpses of a rich, suffocating privileged life; Lally's husband; a marriage destroyed; fevered lovers' meetings; nobly sacrificial partings; the tragedies of WW I; and careers--of both self-destructive genius and determined good works. Meanwhile, David ponders the plight of Julian's hapless alcoholic son, his own father. At the close, Lally's diary--now worth a fortune since Julian's art has been rediscovered--is tossed into the fire, and David, father-haunted, reaches out to his son. Another pleasantly autumnal soughing over the loves of yesteryear, the mysteries and the miseries, airily confidential in the telling. A livelier story than Budd's first novel, with a spikier heroine.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1990
Publisher: St. Martin's