"Damian Baxter was a friend of mine at Cambridge. We met around the time when I was doing the Season at the end of the Sixties. I introduced him to some of the girls. They took him up, and we ran about together in London for a while...."
Nearly forty years later, the narrator hates Damian Baxter and would gladly forget their disastrous last encounter. But if it is pleasant to hear from an old friend, it is more interesting to hear from an old enemy, and so he accepts an invitation from the rich and dying Damian, who begs him to track down the past girlfriend whose anonymous letter claimed he had fathered a child during that ruinous debutante season.
The search takes the narrator back to the extraordinary world of swinging London, where aristocratic parents schemed to find suitable matches for their daughters while someone was putting hash in the brownies at a ball at Madame Tussaud's. It was a time when everything seemed to be changing--and it was, but not always quite as expected.
In his second novel (after Snobs), Oscar-winning screenwriter Fellowes (e.g., Gosford Park) examines the lives of the debutantes and young aristocrats of 1960s England 40 years on. Damian Baxter is a self-made millionaire dying of cancer who for nearly 20 years has had in his possession an anonymous letter indicating that he fathered a child in the early 1970s, right around the time that his group of friends and lovers were breaking up and moving on, often to more unsatisfying lives. Wishing to leave his entire fortune to this child, Baxter asks his one-time friend, the novel's narrator, to visit each of the women who might have written the letter. The narrator's visits and flashbacks to their glory days make up the bulk of the novel. Verdict While the American woman is a sad caricature, the rest of Fellowes's players more than hold one's attention and sympathy. An interesting reflection on how to cope (or in some cases, how not to cope) with the end of one's era. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/09.]-Julie Elliott, Indiana Univ. Lib., South Bend Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
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St. Martin's Press
August 31, 2009
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