Time of Grace

Clare Harkness, Author St. Martin's Press $24.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-13611-6
This quirky romp from British writer Harkness was actually written before her praised Monsieur de Brillancourt, published here last year. And it suffers a bit from the common first-novel malady of being more accomplished in tone than in depth. In effective flashbacks, Harkness recounts the lives of two upper-class Englishwomen, Imogen and Jessica, inseparable friends almost from the time they are thrown together in a British convent school, a time measured in innocent, often hilarious naughtiness. The girls' adventures (they almost burn down their dorm and suffer through the horrible food and all-Latin library) light up the initial portions, capturing the schoolgirl attitude and limning their irrepressible personalities. Both attend the Sorbonne, and their social, political and romantic educations propel them to the edges of the 1960s student protests in Paris. Throughout their lives, they discuss how society and men are horrid to women. Of course, each falls into the arms of a less-than-suitable partner: Jessica marries a charming Irish bully, and Imogen goes from an affair shattered by a shocking revelation to a marriage with a psychologically abusive diplomat. After years of this torture, each is ``freed'' by an illicit affair but ultimately finds a most unexpected lover. Though the characters are charming, vital and droll, the tone is so light and breezy that it belies the gravity of the tale's more somber events. Nevertheless, the novel is an entirely enjoyable experience which, as Imogen says of Jessica, is ``very well aware of the fact that charm gets you further than good behaviour.'' (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1995
Release date: 10/01/1995
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