Charley Bland

Mary Lee Settle, Author
Mary Lee Settle, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $18.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-374-12078-8
Reviewed on: 10/01/1989
Release date: 10/01/1989
With its zinger of an opening sentence: ``It seemed that when I was growing up, all the wild roads led to Charley Bland,'' Settle sweeps into her seductive story, a memento of a lost love and a genteelly devouring way of life. In 1960, widowed and a fledgling author, the 35-year-old narrator returns home to West Virginia, where she becomes the newest conquest of the town rake and alcoholic, irresistible Charley Bland. Both are prodigals and sinners: she in having fled the South to live the bohemian life in Paris, Charley thoroughly in thrall to his ruthless, implacably selfish mother: ``She used charm like a blunt instrument.'' The passionate summer romance cools to a secret relationship that endures for seven years. Finally, the narrator feels she has received ``permission to leave'' from those who have known from the beginning that Charley will never marry her. A familiar story, perhaps, but Settle recounts it in beautifully cadenced, lyrical prose, her elegiac tone perfectly sustained, her ironic insights stinging with her special understanding of how Southern codes of conduct, especially the ironclad traditions of family relationships, foreordain the tragic waste of lives. Settle, whose Beulah Quintet has few peers in its depiction of Southern character, makes this bittersweet love story resonant with the truths of life. (Sept.)
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!