The Sugar Mother

Elizabeth Jolley, Author HarperCollins Publishers $16.95 (210p) ISBN 978-0-06-015940-5
Jolley's latest novel (after Palomino) is again set in her native Australia but could take place anywhere. Edwin, a pedantic and in many ways childish 54-year-old professor of literature, has been left a grass widower for a year. His obstetrician wife Cecilia has taken a sabbatical trip to Europe, leaving him to the care of their circle of friends, a group of gently swinging couples. Almost before he knows it, Edwin is taken over by his new next-door neighbors, Leila Bott and her mother, a pandering, inquisitive woman who distinctly resembles Mrs. Malaprop. In fact, they somehow move in on poor Edwin and take over his house. But it is futile to pity him: Edwin is the author of all his troubles. . But it is when Mrs. Bott suggests that Leila act as a ``sugar'' (for ``surrogate'') mother that common sense truly flies out the door. The novel is full of unexpected jokes and surprisesone of which is the unconventional behavior of its well-limned, subtly drawn middle-aged characters. The reader is often uncertain about which events have occurred outside Edwin's mind and which inside it, but this doesn't matter: the sheer fun of Jolley's writing and her lighthearted yet serious lesson that not even the old are predictable make this a pleasure to reador even read out loud. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Paperback - 978-0-06-091588-9
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