THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS by Yona Zeldis McDonough


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Slow-going, made-for-TV family drama about a waiflike NYC ballerina on the rise who fatally attracts the first violinist and his young married son: a first adult novel from children's author and editor McDonough (The Barbie Chronicles, 1999, etc.).

Virginia “Ginny” Valentine is the toothy, skinny upstart from Louisiana who shimmies her way to solo stardom in one Ballanchine production after another (The Four Temperaments being one of them), while aging, well-established Oscar Kornblatt adores her from the orchestra pit. He feeds her ravenous appetite and helps organize her life, and even brings her home on the Upper West Side to be fed by his patient, good-hearted wife, Ruth, who suggests they introduce her to one of their three grown sons. But Oscar has begun to bed her, too—until the Kornblatt family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner and Ruth comes upon her married-with-infant architect son, Gabriel, kissing Ginny passionately in a bedroom. What follows is the tortuous tale of their illicit affair, told in chapters of alternating points of view and in detail so excruciatingly drawn out that the actual loving gets quietly buried. McDonough backtracks ceaselessly to establish the limping relationship between Gabriel and his obsessive-compulsive wife, Penelope; her teenaged riding accident and later collision with a deer; Ruth’s volunteer activities and selfless need to mend; Oscar’s depressed ambition and hapless longing; and Ginny’s ballet training since early childhood. Curiously, the accumulated detail is general rather than specific, so that the reader ends up feeling swamped instead of sympathetic. The symbolic, retributive ending in a tragic accident reinforces the sensation that the author is pulling her characters’ strings with a heavy and moralistic hand.

A ménage a trois with enormous potential that never quite gets aloft.

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 2002
ISBN: 0-385-50361-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2002


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