The Last of the True Believers

Ann Birstein, Author
Ann Birstein, Author W. W. Norton & Company $17.95 (315p) ISBN 978-0-393-02587-3
Reviewed on: 07/01/1988
Release date: 07/01/1988
Sunny Mansfield and David Harvey seem the most mismatched of lovers. When they meet in 1951, David is 37 and divorced, a brooding, second-generation American-Jewish poet whose new book, an autobiography, has been called a ``small classic.'' Sunny, like her name, is blonde, 22, a WASP, and the daughter of a prominent Connecticut surgeon; her first novel is about a cleaning lady from Bridgeport. Sunny goes on a fellowship to France and, after a passionate courtship by mail, marries David the next year in London. Over the next two decades, Sunny experiences many metamorphoses. First she's the young mother and faculty wifea role she detestslater, riding on her husband's coattails, a member of the New York literati. Finally, her career takes off just as David's wanes. She finds her niche as a writer of women's literature, an accolade, as her editor points out, since only women read novels. In the meantime, their marriage has somehow come asunder. At one point Sunny mourns, ``They had squandered their luck''a comment that sums up their relationship. Perhaps it was David's affairs, perhaps professional jealousy, perhaps just the changing times; this novel, among other things, is about Sunny's consciousness raising. Birstein (Summer Situations) is a writer whose intelligence radiates through this engaging narrative. While she pokes fun at everyone involved in producing literaturewriters, editors, criticsthis is primarily a rueful story about the loss of passion. (June)
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