The Dinner Party:

Howard Fast, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $17.95 (250p) ISBN 978-0-395-43035-4
Fans of earlier Fast novels, such as Citizen Tom Paine and the series beginning with The Immigrants, will recognize the author's interest in politics and in the conflicts between ideals and compromise in this work about a U.S. senator and his family. At the suggestion of the Secretary of State, Sen. Richard Cromwell arranges a small dinner party at his country home. Among those present are the Secretary of State, Cromwell's wife Dolly, their college-age children, Leonard and Elizabeth, and Dolly's parents, Augustus and Jenny Levi. Gus Levi is extraordinarily wealthy and influential, and Richard understands the dinner has been requested so that the Secretary can speak with his father-in-law informally. Fast's tale covers the day of the party, from Cromwell's earliest thoughts, which are of his mistress, to his late-night reordering of priorities. In the course of the day, he reconnects with his wife, learns a tragic fact about his son and alters the direction of his career by standing up for his own needs and beliefs. More of the author's familiar preoccupations are represented in other characters: the couple who manages the Cromwell household is black, as is Leonard's visiting friend and lover from law school; Leonard relies on a Zen-like meditation to help him face death. Though vintage Fast in its issues, unfortunately there's little pace to this novel that reads more like a treatise related by cardboard figures than a story about livingand dyingpeople. (January 28)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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