THE FLIGHT OF THE MAIDENS
Here is a great vacation read—but it's definitely not a throwaway. Prolific English novelist Gardam, Whitbread Award winner for both The Hollow Land and Queen of the Tambourine, has crafted a story through which readers can step into 1946 England. The war is over and the world is profoundly changed, though some of the old trappings remain, reminders of a faded past. Three Yorkshire girls of considerable intelligence but modest means have earned scholarships to universities in Cambridge and London; the novel is set during the summer before their departure for university. Hetty Fallowes decides "to be ruthless and positive and in charge of [her] own soul." She rebels against her quirky parents, especially her pious mother, who married her intellectual, grave-digging father for love and now regrets it. Plucky Una Vane's mother is using her dead father's office (he was a doctor) as a beauty parlor; Una develops leftist leanings and embarks on a romance with Ray, a boy of questionable background. Lieselotte Klein is a Jewish-German refugee who came to the village as a child to live with a Quaker family. At 17, she is suddenly sent to stay with a strange, elderly Jewish couple in London and finally, briefly, with distant relatives in California. All characters, major and minor, are superbly developed and convincing. The portrait of postwar England as conventions crumble and the country is rebuilt is terrific, drawn by a writer whose attention to detail recreates, lovingly and with bright flashes of wit, another time and place. (July)
Forecast:Strong reviews and favorable word-of-mouth will be crucial to help build an American readership for this fine import.