The Companion

Chaim Bermant, Author St. Martin's Press $14.95 (175p) ISBN 978-0-312-01751-4
Prolific British author Bermant ( Titch , Coming Home ) here succeeds in a tricky task, conveying the garrulous voice of the heroine of this engaging novel. At 50, Phyllis works as companion to snobbish Martha Crystal, whom she hates. Still mourning her husband after 40 years, Mrs. Crystal, referred to by Phyllis as the Old Woman, is too fat to walk and growing more obese every day. Mrs. Crystal originally hired Phyllis as a maid, but raised her status and lowered her wages as her money began to dwindle. Despite her reduced income, the Old Woman still behaves like a grande dame, buying her few, mean Christmas presents in London, treating her solicitor to lavish teas and vying with her similarly long-widowed, high-nosed friend Veronica for the longest string of Christmas cards and invitations, grown pitifully few with the years. Sharply counterpointing the Old Woman's grumbling bass, Phyllis lets no slight pass unanswered and struggles to recover from a lifetime of caring for others20 years at her sick mother's side, standing in the shadow of her pretty sister, protecting her thieving brotherby responding eagerly to the fumbling passes of the few men she encounters. When the Old Woman dies, however, Phyllis's solitariness is relieved by an unexpected candidate. Such is Bermant's skill in depicting his tart-tongued heroine that the reader rejoices in the unexpected happy ending. (September)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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