Jack of Diamonds and Other Stories

Elizabeth Spencer, Author Viking Books $15.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-670-82261-4
Of the five outstanding stories in this new collection by a master of the genre, at least three qualify as classics. All are beautifully honed, animated by distinctive characters and deeply expressive of the mysterious forces that bring individuals together and of the secrets at the heart of people's lives. Ella Mason, the narrator of the beautifully paced, emotionally charged ``The Cousins,'' reminisces about a pivotal summer when she and four of her close-knit Southern kin traveled in Europe. Unconsciously in love with both her ``brilliant, princely, cavalier'' cousins Ben and Eric, Ella's sexual awakening by one of them irrevocably changes the relationships among them all. ``The Business Venture,'' also reflecting a Southern sensibility, concerns a group of casually promiscuous and hard-drinking young couples, all from patrician families fallen on difficult times. One of the ``old crowd,'' Nelle, betrays them by ``stepping out of line''; outspoken and independent, she becomes business partners with a black man and transgresses the unforgiving social mores of the community. In the title story, a 17-year-old goes alone to her family's summer home in Lake George, N.Y. The last time she was there, three years ago, her mother was killed in an auto accident. Now she must come to terms with her charming father's slick betrayal. While subtly limning the ambiguities of human relationships, Spencer never neglects a strong narrative line. This is a collection to cheer about. (August)
Reviewed on: 08/05/1988
Release date: 08/01/1988
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