cover image Sheer Abandon

Sheer Abandon

Penny Vincenzi, . . Doubleday, $24.95 (640pp) ISBN 978-0-385-51988-5

British bestseller Vincenzi (No Angel ) pulls out all the stops in this orchestral saga. In 1985, three young British women meet in a Heathrow departure lounge en route to precollege sojourns. One of them, upon her return to England, secretly gives birth and abandons the baby in a cleaning supplies closet at the airport; "Baby Bianca" captivates the public's sympathies until she is adopted. The mystery of who her mother is serves as the spine of this fat, satisfying novel, and Vincenzi creates multiple intrigues around the three women: Jocasta, a rising tabloid journalist (Vincenzi wrote for Vogue and Cosmopolitan ); Clio, a physician specializing in geriatrics; and Martha, a corporate lawyer running for Parliament. It's 16 years before they all meet again, and Baby Bianca has matured into a stunning blonde teen, Kate, who is summarily exploited by a ruthless fashion editor as she searches for her mother. The various narrative themes crescendo through several all-hands-on-deck scenes, including a swank party where daughter almost meets mother, and a packed funeral where someone figures out who the father is. Although some of the male characters are too overbearing to be believed (especially Clio's sneering surgeon husband), the women are, without exception, multifaceted, smart and brave, and their happiness is hard won. A U.K. bestseller, the book offers major escape and abandon for summer. (May)