Noel Virtue, Author LADY JEANNoel Virtue

New Zealand-born Virtue (Among the Animals; Sandspit Crossing, etc.) isn't well-known in the U.S., but his excellent novels have been published to considerable acclaim in Britain since 1987. "Lady Jean" Barrie is a legendary British blues singer who retired for mysterious reasons at the height of her fame and now lives, semireclusively, in a big manse on Acacia Road in London. Publishers have hired a young ghostwriter, Anthony Hibbert, to try to coax her life story onto tape and into a book. Unbeknownst to Jean, her elusive tenant, Catherine Truman (nicknamed the Fallen Nun by Jean's best friend, an outrageous lesbian named Frieda), is also listening in, her intentions less than honorable. In Jean's 58th year, her house suddenly fills up. First, she takes in her Aunt Dizzy, a wealthy, endearing oddball with a checkered past. The management of the exclusive hotel to which Aunt Dizzy had retired have gotten fed up with her eccentricities, which include "hanging her rinsed undies out the windows of her rooms." Then Christopher Harcourt, Jean's teenaged handyman, needs a room, having been abruptly thrown out of his home by his evangelical mother when she discovered him in the arms of her brother, Fergus. Next, having found her ex-husband's father, Ivan Fitzpatrick, puttering around in a seedy apartment in Bath grieving his dead wife, Jean invites him to stay in the house in Catherine Truman's now vacated room. Frieda, temporarily hiding from an overbearing girlfriend, moves in, too—followed by Mr. Harcourt, Christopher's father. Like Henry Green in Loving, Virtue immerses us in the folkways of an enormous household, letting the humor emerge from the gradual accumulation of juxtaposed eccentricities. The result is a delightful conglomeration of high spirits, Wildean wit and rattled optimism. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/27/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 200 pages - 978-0-7206-1755-9
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