The Grown-Ups

Victoria Glendinning, Author
Victoria Glendinning, Author Knopf Publishing Group $18.95 (243p) ISBN 978-0-394-57947-4
Reviewed on: 11/28/1989
Release date: 12/01/1989
In 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.)
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