cover image The Fortune

The Fortune

Michael Korda. Summit Books, $19.45 (481pp) ISBN 978-0-671-60100-3

Prime entertainment from the author of Queenie and Charmed Lives , this facile novel shows high society red in tooth and claw. The wealthy, snobbish Bannerman family is a fictional hybrid of the Rockefellers and the Binghams. It's bad enough that Arthur Bannerman has the poor taste to die in the bed of an attractive young woman. But when she declares herself his widow and delivers a will giving her control of the family fortune, his son Robert and the redoubtable matriarch Eleanor haul out the heavy artillery. Korda has a wonderful ear for bitchy, brittle society chatter, and he takes satirical swipes in every direction. A Mayflower madam, a whiny, upperclass priest and the New York art scene are raked over the coals for the reader's amusement, while skeletons rattle loudly in the very best closets. Despite some overly obvious set-ups and some irritating prose mannerisms (including the tendency of almost every character to ``break into a sweat''), it's easy to enjoy the novel's narrative drive and coast smoothly to the gratifying finish. Literary Guild main selection; ABC miniseries; author tour. (Feb.)