Webster's listless fiction debut (she is the author of Yeats: A Psychoanalytic Study ), the story of a passive housewife who rebels against an obnoxious husband, tries and fails to rouse interest through a setting that long ago lost its elan. Although such a plot could easily occur in any era, Webster places her principals in 1974 Berkeley, Calif. Connie, trapped in a dead-end marriage to a fanatically religious man, coping with two kids and having an affair with a swinging bachelor, identifies with the kidnapped Patty Hearst. Prosaic references to Nixon, Latin-American revolution and Erica Jong's Fear of Flying remind readers of the social and gender restrictions Connie faces as she considers divorce. Scenes of domestic ugliness--Connie endures her husband's insults and abuse of their children, then runs to her smarmy lover for comfort--dominate the book all the way to its predictable finale. This out-of-time, out-of-place novel, which uninsightfully reprises the values of two decades ago, proves overlong and thoroughly dreary. (Sept.)
Connie has lived with her curmudgeonly and verbally abusive husband, Howard, for years. Howard's absence while on sabbatical in Israel brings such relief to the family that Connie's consciousness is at last raised (the story is set in the 1970s). Webster's novel is a detailed account of Howard's haranguing, Connie's affair, and their daughter's adolescent rage and sexual relationship with a father-figure high school teacher. Punctuated by descriptions of newspaper and television accounts of Patty Hearst's kidnapping and Nixon's resignation, the novel has a sense of genuineness and real-life angst, but it has no sense of purpose. The book is successful as a portrait of a battleground of a 1970s marriage, complete with the damaging effects on two children, but it ends too abruptly and is perhaps too real for fiction's sake.