Swallow Hard

Sarah Gaddis, Author Atheneum Books $19.95 (315p) ISBN 978-0-689-12106-7
When Rollin Thompkins is born, her father visits an astrologer who assures him that his daughter will always be taken care of. Indeed she is, and so is dad Lad, a critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful writer who is supported by wealthy admirers, among them Douglas Kipps, Lad's Harvard classmate and Rollin's godfather. As Lad shuttles to Yaddo and MacDowell, Rollin poses for famous painters and her mother mingles with literati. Rollin's adolescence is clouded by the breakup of her parents' marriage and by Douglas's death, and her early adulthood is problematized by Douglas's bequest, a complicated arrangement granting her a peculiar status at an arts colony. The profusion of minor characters and the clumsy structure suggest that the story is essentially autobiographical (the author is William Gaddis's daughter). Literary pretensions here are poorly served by an artily elliptical narrative, graceless sentences (``She supposed that one had someone one told about something like this, and she had told him'') and decidedly gothic plot elements, such as an illegitimate heir's stepping forward at the 11th hour. These flaws, crowned by over-privileged Rollin's whining, make Swallow Hard hard to swallow. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
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