Beneath the Wind

Cordelia Frances Biddle, Author Simon & Schuster $21.5 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-78703-5
Though slow-moving, contrived and sentimental, this first novel offers a sensitively detailed picture of a vanished class structure and way of life, as well as colorful settings in various exotic countries. In 1889, well-born Eugenia Paine of Philadelphia is engaged to George Axthelm. Her gushing diary entries, accurately reflecting the style of the time, are laced through the third-person narrative, summarizing the action, but often introducing characters whose presence is extraneous to the plot. In 1903, Eugenia and George and their three children embark on an around-the-world voyage on a luxury yacht, a 10th-anniversary gift from George's powerful but corrupt father. Melodrama on the high seas follows, as passion, betrayal and the family's secret criminal involvement in a gun smuggling scheme lead to tragedy. Readers who are not impatient with the leisurely pace will find Biddle often delivers graceful, evocative prose, especially in tracing Eugenia's slow awakening from a narrow-minded, stultified society matron to a strong woman whose self-awareness is gained through physical passion and whose maturity is earned through pain. Biddle robs the narrative of tension, however, by telling too much too soon, by excessively rendering Eugenia's tortured self-consciousness and by succumbing to simplistic melodrama. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
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