Waiting for Childhood

Sumner Locke Elliott, Author HarperCollins Publishers $16.45 (247p) ISBN 978-0-06-015797-5
In this engrossing, extraordinarily well-crafted novel by the author of Careful, He Might Hear You, seven red-headed childrensix girls and a boy in the middlewhose father dies between a bite of toast and a sip of teaare transplanted from the Australian outback to a suburb of Sidney, there to deal in their several ways with unexpected and unprepared-for poverty. Exacerbating these unfortunate circumstances is their mother's alienation, so profound that in her state of waking dream she hears the wheels of a carriage and, convinced that her husband is returning to her, rushes out and is crushed to death. From this point the children take over, each according to individual gifts and ambitions, each distinctive because Elliott's empathetic imagination understands both their virtues and their sins. There is Adnia, born with a crooked foot and destined for a moment's perfect happiness bestowed by a passing sailor, and Jess, reared in riches by an indulgent aunt but learning when the old woman dies that she has riches of her own. Shining a little more brightly than the rest is Sidney, who writes short stories by night and peddles them by day, becomes a smashing success, and falls in love wtih a charming, irresponsible clarinetist, beloved as well of her younger sister. Each of the siblings and their milieu and timethe early decades of this centurycomes alive and remains memorable in a novel whose insights keep equal pace with the author's smooth and beguiling prose. Literary Guild ""Editor's Corner'' selection. (September)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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