Long Distances

Fabienne Marsh, Author Summit Books $17.45 (240p) ISBN 978-0-671-64496-3
Despite several basic implausibilities, this epistolary novel depicting a modern marriage succeeds in holding the reader's interest. Columbia English professor Michael Hammond is on his way to London when the story opens, on a year's sabbatical to finish a book of poetry. Left behind in a Westchester suburb are his wife Kate, documentary filmmaker for a TV network, and children Judson and Jeanne, aka ""Scrunch.'' Through letters and postcards from the Hammonds to each other, and to other family members and friends, we gradually come to understand the strains in their marriage. Michael is charming, self-indulgent, egotistical and irresponsible. For a long while, Kate hides her envy of his freedom, her resentment and finally her rage at being left alone to manage job (she loses one, gets another), kids and household responsibilities. Michael's return to the States leads to further estrangement and, eventually, to a resolution that reveals Kate's new strength of character; this is a novel with a clear feminist bias. Readers must persevere beyond the narrative's initial pages: Kate's early letters are altogether too brief, glib and breezy for plausibility, and there's a neighbor who writes copious notes instead of picking up the phonehardly credible in this age of Ma Bell. Some may be intimidated by the many literary references, artsy allusions and witty asides of Marsh's intellectual, sophisticated characters. But, as she obliquely reveals the secrets that Michael has hidden and the invidious double standard he espouses, the novel comes together in a believable way. (February)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Paperback - 978-0-671-67400-7
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