Gloria-C

Keith Maillard, Author
Keith Maillard, Author Soho Press $27 (0p) ISBN 978-1-56947-206-4
Paperback - 704 pages - 978-0-00-648175-1
Paperback - 656 pages - 978-0-06-093597-9
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Gloria Merriman Cotter is a smart upper-class girl caught in the restrictive social mores of late 1950s America and torn between conformity and self-realization. Maillard (Light in the Company of Women) tenderly and meticulously charts his heroine's struggle to alternately fit in, stand out and not disappoint anybody, least of all herself. Gloria spends her last summer at home, between college and graduate school, when she returns to the country club crowd of Raysburg, a small West Virginia steel town. The daughter of a self-made executive and a misplaced New England society matron, Gloria knows she's expected to marry the right sort of man. Does that mean that her dream of grad school at Columbia University to study poetry with Lionel Trilling is doomed? With insight and clarity, Maillard illuminates the confused, complex, sometimes trivial but always heartfelt thoughts of a young woman trying to fathom her place in the world. Traumatized by cruel classmates at boarding school, Gloria begins high school desperate to appear ""normal,"" an enterprise guided by the voice in her head that she calls ""secret watcher."" Doggedly, she remakes herself, skillfully plotting her rise to cheerleader and then prom queen. She feels like an impostor, however, because under her carefully crafted disguise of crinolines and curled eyelashes, Gloria is a brilliant, intellectual bookworm. At Briarville College, she is torn between her sorority's finicky rules and her desire to be taken seriously as a poetry scholar. Maillard's precise prose weaves the long, meandering story together admirably, though the details, particularly of her fashion dilemmas, can be monotonous. Yet most of the subplots, notably the passage of Gloria's parents into midlife, propel the story and give context for Gloria's journey. After following Gloria through her tough coming-of-age, readers will wonder what happens to this resourceful but consummate good girl, in her high heels, girdle and kid gloves, when she enters Columbia on the cusp of the '60s. Major ad/promo. (Sept.)
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