A COOLER CLIMATE by Zena Collier


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In Collier's first fiction, an upper-middle-class woman turns housemaid out of financial desperation--and then takes us on an initially provoking, but finally superficial, tour through our own American social strata. Having divorced her physician husband only to be left in the lurch by her artist lover, 45-year-old Iris Prue decides to stop sponging off her friends and accepting hand-outs from her successful attorney daughter, Callie. Iris answers a newspaper ad and is hired to become a housekeeper at the Maine summer home of Leo and Paula Tanner. Her friends are appalled. Her daughter is ashamed. And Iris is not too confident herself when she arrives to meet distant, demanding Paula--who requires that rooms be swept even if they're not dirty, and bed linens be changed even if no one has slept in them. The edgy interplay between employer and new maid is fascinating, as are Iris' speculations on her new social position: "". . .our neighbors on the cove--a movie mogul, a prominent publisher, a State Department biggie--weren't likely to extend their friendship to the Tanner's maid. I had no lines to the visitors occupying the motels and more modest cottages. Who was left?"" But the answer comes too neatly. Underneath all that pride, it turns out, Paula is suffering, and, even as she sinks, Iris comes into her own with a circle of new, interesting friends, a new, considerate lover and, ultimately, a new--and respectable--job. Collier's premise is intriguing, and her writing brims with small, sharp insights, but she rescues Iris too quickly. The message we're left with is just an old truism--cream always rises to the top--and we can't help feeling that there was more to be milked here.

Pub Date: May 4th, 1990
ISBN: 1583483845
Publisher: British American--dist. by Simon & Schuster