RICH RELATIONS by William Wright


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Purported to be a roman a clef, this tale about two East Coast princesses gets off to a shaky beginning as the sisters, ""Gus"" and ""B.K.,"" learn to cope among the cinders. Their adored father, philandering Tom Tollover--magnetically handsome, a monument to family breeding--tutors his daughters in royal airs and graces in their stone mansion on Long Island's North Shore; but there's insufficient cash for the Tollover fillies to keep up with their peers of pedigree--in trips, in clothes, in things. And when mother Kate gets fed up with tending a huge, servantless, ill-furnished house, she and the gifts move into a Manhattan 2BR (hamburgers in the kitchen), though the girls do enroll in an exclusive school (thanks to a begrudging dole from Kate's brother). Of course, all this means that shrewd Gus and vulnerable B.K. must tell lies and carefully gauge pressure points in order to hold their social own. But then, miraculously, the girls are suddenly ""air-lifted into a well-staffed Garden of Eden""--the 33-room mansion of Ambassador Bryce Hartshorne, Kate's new husband and father of Brandon, a homosexual who hates his father and disrupts Gus' debut night. She recovers neatly, however, and while B.K. is devastated by the rejection of a young Italian prince, Gus sails on into celebrity: she becomes a monied beautiful, a media item who awes classmates at Smith, wows Yale and Harvard. Throughout the royal progress, however, there's the deteriorating, distressing presence of Gus' real love--her bitter, jealous, demanding father Tom, whose inane bitchery aimed at Bryce's career finally brings on Gus' total rejection (a lesson in expediency). So, as Tom wanders to pathetic death, Gus has an affair in France with an elderly composer; B.K. has a disastrous fling at poverty and a macho actor. And finally the sisters, now on top of the status game and wise to every joker in the deck, shoot for the moon, achieving careers as living legends. An empathic stroll through the pink gardens of privilege--blinkered and gossipy and expertly designed entertainment for those who dote on high-society tattle.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 1980
Publisher: Putnam