Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyTaking its title from Longfellow (``the secret anniversaries of the heart'') Spencer's ( Endless Love ) new novel is an ambitious attempt to record a young woman's emotional, intellectual and moral awakening through vignettes illuminating her milestone experiences. Caitlin Van Fleet's life--quiet and obscure in itself--intersects with some of the significant events and personalities of the WW II years. Brought up on the estate of WASP gentry in upstate New York, where her father is the caretaker and her mother a maid, she goes to Washington to work for a senator who has close links with Father Coughlin, the German-American Bund and others with pro-Nazi sympathies. Bright but unsophisticated, Caitlin only gradually realizes the moral repugnance of the America First propaganda, through the efforts of earnest undercover reporter Joe Rose. At the end of her life she is proud of ``the strange path I've taken''--a life that has included both a passionate lesbian affair and a short heterosexual liaison that results in a child she decides to raise alone. While intrinsically interesting, the novel is marred by Spencer's decision to tell the story in abruptly shifting unchronological segments, a device that seems forced, and that prevents the novel from acquiring the dramatic momentum a straightforward account might have provided. (Apr.)
Library JournalCaitlin Van Fleet is the last in a long line of a Hudson River servant family tending the wealthy modern-day pseudo-patroons. Her bold behavior with the landlord's son results in happy expulsion from home straight to pre-wartime Washington. Though bright and pretty, Caitlin is also unsophisticated and naive enough to fall for Betty Sinclair, glamorous administrative assistant to the pro-German congressman for whom they both work. To tell Caitlan's story, the author singles out 11 important days (in irritating nonchronological fashion) in her 65 years or so of life. Spencer's ( Endless Love) focus is diffuse as he attempts to portray the antiwar effort of the German-American community while telling a life story at the same time. The format just doesn't work, leaving the story without focus. This seems more of a writing exercise than a novel. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/89.-- Marion Hanscom, SUNY at Binghamton Lib.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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