Aunts

Robert Liddell, Author Peter Owen Publishers $25.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7206-0665-2
Not the eponymous aunts Eliza and Jane but their nephew Philip emerges as the focus of the wit and erudition of this British octogenarian author of a score of novels, biographies and works of criticism. Set in a London suburb in 1938, the book worries the politely but nonetheless insistently asked question of why Philip is unwilling to marrythe aunts suggesting behind their hands that peculiarities on the part of the males in the family have cropped up in the past. Accordingly, they set Doctor Mary upon him; she is a collateral cousin so resourceful that the reader alternately hopes and fears that she'll catch him. But Philip, who in any case can't believe that she really likes himshe is taller than he and interested, as he is not, in successis never in danger. He lives contentedly with James, a high-church cleric with whom, in their Oxford days, he had unabashedly sinned, but on account of whose vow of chastity he has now relinquished fleshly pleasures for the sturdier ones of love and companionship. Their conversation hovers between learned quotation and intellectual pun, and their travail with the aunts is a miracle of dodging. Full of delightful characters, from the old dog Danny to impotent Uncle George, this is a charming novel of old-world manners masking new-world notions of justice and freedom, without forsaking loyalty and personal honor. (September 9)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1987
Release date: 05/01/1987
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