Drury's 17th novel is a long, long book, a fact that will be painfully obvious to those who plod through to the end. The story is set at Stanford University during the 1938-1939 academic year, and there are a plethora of formulaic characters and situations that portend all the issues of the latter two-thirds of the 20th century. Members of the fraternity house which serves as the focal point for the story include the president of the student body (the central male character), one suicidal manic-depressive, one incipient Nazi, one concerned Jewish student deeply aware of the threat Hitler presents, one dumb but lovable football player, one pleasant but bigoted-by-birth Southern white (crucial to an unlikely subplot involving the university's first black student) and at least two closet homosexuals. When introducing each new character, Drury ``quotes'' from the notes of the fraternity's budding novelist, notes that conveniently sum up the newcomer's nature, background and place in the grand scheme of things. There are some saving graces--the protagonist is not quite perfect, with a nice touch of arrogance that slightly humanizes him; and many readers will be surprised by which of the two women in his life finally gets the ring--but, overall, the book is a dreary bore. (July)
The polemical nature of Drury's most recent novels has garnered increasingly critical reviews. His latest, however, eschews liberal versus conservative polemics. It is 1939 and the threat of war in Europe is the focus. The novel follows budding politician ``Willie'' Wilson and his fraternity brothers as Willie begins his senior year. The characters that populate this campus are the stock figures who populate so many others: the charismatic leader, the idealistic editor, the dim but lovable football player, etc. As the story unfolds they are forced to confront racism, anti-Semitism, and the prospect of war. The large cast is initially confusing, and some awkward writing doesn't help, but the storytelling soon gathers momentum, engrossing the reader in the fate of the numerous characters. This bustling, old-fashioned novel should find a ready audience. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/90.--Beth Ann Mills, New Rochelle P.L., N.Y.