Friday, October 7, 2011

HEAT WAVE by Penelope Lively

The author may be "Lively," but the book is very subdued. One theme that runs through this novel is that history repeats itself. In this case, it's like mother, like daughter. Pauline's affable husband Harry had a wandering eye and felt that his affairs were inevitable. The same is true of daughter Teresa, whose husband Maurice has become involved with his editor's girlfriend. Since Pauline and Teresa are next-door neighbors in an English country estate, Pauline is aware of Maurice's infidelity before Teresa is. Jealousy can eat you alive, and Pauline knows this firsthand. However, she still holds a grudge against the woman who first voiced the opinion that Harry was cheating on her. To tell Teresa or not to tell her, that is the question. As Maurice's lies and excuses become less and less plausible, even to Teresa, the tension among the 3 main characters becomes palpable. Another interesting subplot is that Pauline is copyediting a fanciful novel that involves a cheating lothario and finds herself captivated by a story that's unlikely to sell well. She doesn't pull any punches about the book's chances, as she becomes the author's sounding board for his own marital woes. In fact, she dishes out no-nonsense advice to him with aplomb but is stifled in her attempt to warn her own daughter not to waste a chunk of her life in misery. Unfortunately, just as Pauline was devastated to have to give up and give up on Harry, Teresa is so besotted with Maurice that we know she's willing to pay almost any price for his company.

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