Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyIn her fiction debut, the renowned British biographer ( Rebecca West ; Vita ) takes an astringent look at the lives of seemingly sophisticated ``grown-ups'' who are capable of childlike behavior when obsessed by love or lust. Martha, Alice and Clara, friends since boarding school, are in love with Dr. Leo Ulm, ``the famous social philosopher'' and charismatic TV and lecture-circuit star. Martha is married to him, Alice is the wife of his blind son from his first marriage, and Clara is unable to commit herself to her lover Harry because she adulates Leo. (Charlotte, Leo's first wife, still longs for him as well.) All are aware that Leo is egocentric, childish and demanding, but they live for his praise and one of his endearingly crooked smiles. In scenes shot with wry humor, Glendinning focuses on the few months prior to Leo's premature death, an event that brings profound changes to the lives of the heroines. In crisp, colloquial prose (``There's more to love than fucking,'' the novel's opening sentence reads), Glendinning examines men's attitudes toward women--and vice versa--in the era of women's lib. This is effective to a point: Glendinning is neither as insightful as Margaret Drabble (like Drabble, she makes acidic references to Thatcher's England and indulges in ironic asides)--nor as gleefully wicked as Fay Weldon. The novel has some fine moments, however, and in general is a diverting read. BOMC and QPB selections. (Jan.)
Library Journal - Library JournalThis is a marvelously astute book about life's realities. Its central character is Dr. Leo Ulm, a largely forgotten philosopher who has gained new fame as a TV show host; the other characters are related to him by blood, affection, or proximity. Glendinning explores each character and the web of relationships that bind them, in the process dealing with perennial questions about the nature of greatness, love, and truth. One important theme is the limited nature of each person's vision and how even that incomplete vision alters with time and shifting priorities. At the climax of the novel--the somewhat mysterious death of Dr. Ulm--the reader is forced into a reassessment of the whole cast. A first novel that involves and challenges by the noted biographer of Rebecca West and Elizabeth Bowen.-- Laurence Hull, Cannon Memorial Lib., Concord, N.C.
- Random House Publishing Group
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