JENNY by Yorick Blumenfeld


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After the nuclear holocaust: the brief diary--hand-written, complete with doodles and deteriorating penmanship--of Jenny Ewing, an upper-middle-class British survivor of World War III. In the first few pages, the pre-war Jenny is blithe and shallow: chirping about her adultery, chatting about the latest play, scoffing at husband Gerard's investment in a communal fallout shelter. But then the Mideast crisis erupts (""the U.K. might be at war in a few hours. Are these the final words I'll write?"")--and Jenny's next entry, written in a scrawl, is from inside the shelter, where she and her two children (Gerard never made it) are now self-imprisoned. The reactions are the predictable ones: despair, boredom, numbness. (""I long to feel a twitch, any twitch, to prove to myself that I am alive!"") There's stale air, canned food, TV cassettes, promiscuity. (""Shall we end up clawing over the men like bitches in season? What a stinking, putrid lot we are."") There's a brief distraction in amateur theatricals: ""We are the stalking dead. And now we're even singing HELLO, DOLLY!"" There is guilt, tension, existential turmoil: ""Is our fate ultimately that different from the others who died in the first minutes? . . . The only goal of this self-inflicted torture has been survival. This means focusing on self, self, self. This is truly the ME shelter."" And eventually, when the radiation level falls outside, there's an emergence into a devastated England of rats and corpses--as Jenny, having found some loving sustenance in a gentle mÉnage à trois, expects the worst but ""must try again, as in the old days, to live for the present."" No surprises or special insights--and the English frame-of-reference will mute the immediacy for most US readers--but a competent, plausible exercise, starkly life-sized, with no literary pretensions to get in the way of the grim, obvious, anti-nuclear message.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1982
Publisher: Little, Brown