cover image Golden Days

Golden Days

Carolyn See / Author McGraw-Hill Companies $15.95 (196p) ISBN

See, who is the author of three previous, rather quiet, sensitive novels, a partner in the authorship of blockbuster pop sagas (Lotus Land, 110 Shanghai Roadp and an admired Los Angeles Times book reviewer, has found an entirely new voice for her most current novel, a breakout if ever there was one. Her publisher mentions Joan Didion, Anne Tyler and Nora Ephron, but none quite evokes the wry yet deeply felt and devastatingly feminine tone she has caught in Golden Daysrather as if John Cheever had changed gender and moved to California. There is Cheever's intense sense of place (Los Angeles instead of exurban Connecticut), of the passage of time and of the enormities that gape just below the surface of life in this tale of a breezy middle-aged woman coming to terms with life, men and, ultimately, nuclear war. Some of the material sounds familiar: marriage in the early 1960s to dreadfully wrong men, the depth and power of female friendship over the years, the California self-realization movement (for once, not satirized but quirkily affirmed) and, finally, the darkening into the 1980s and the coping with unimaginable nuclear horrors. But it has all been felt and thought afresh, and with startling sudden insights on nearly every page: on the way childhood memories linger, why men make war, how favorite restaurants somehow attain symbolic stature. A chapter that inhabits the mind of a philandering husband is uncanny in its accuracy and sadness. And the closing pages offer a vision of nuclear apotheosis and human survival utterly unlike anything in contemporary literature. Golden Days offers the excitement of discovering what seems like a brand-new talent, but enriched by a sureness of tragicomic touch that could only be the work of an experienced writer striking into bold new territory. 30,000 first printing; $25,000 ad/promo. (October 20)