Virginia Miner, a 50-something, unmarried tenured professor, is in London to work on her new book about children's folk rhymes. Despite carrying a U.S. passport, Vinnie feels essentially English and rather looks down on her fellow Americans. But in spite of that, she is drawn into a mortifying and oddly satisfying affair with an Oklahoman tourist who dresses more Bronco Billy than Beau Brummel.
"Laura Ashley dress reference brought me back!"
When his mentor at Harvard University suddenly leaves for Washington, Paul Cattleman finds himself adrift in the wilds of academia. He's lost his fellowship position for the fall semester, can find work only in what he considers to be intellectual cesspits--schools that would brand the young history professor as forever unsuitable for the Ivy League--and is one thesis short of a PhD. Rather than doom his career, he takes a temporary job in Los Angeles, a city whose superficial charms signal an adventure.
Erica Tate wouldn't mind getting up in the morning if she enjoyed her children more. Until puberty struck, Jeffrey and Matilda were absolute darlings, but in the last year, they have become sullen, insufferable little monsters. Erica's husband, Brian, is so deeply immersed in university life--and the legs of a half-literate flower child named Wendy--that he either doesn't notice his wife's misery or simply doesn't care. Worst of all their pleasant little neighborhood is transforming into a subdivision.
Every schoolboy in America knows the work of Wilkie Walker. A pioneering naturalist, he won fame and fortune with his accessible nature books. But by the time he turns 70, his renown is nearly gone. Late at night, he sits up torturing himself with fears that his career was a waste, his talent is gone, and his body is shot through with cancer. His wife Jenny, 25 years younger than Wilkie, can tell only that he is out of sorts. She has no idea her husband is on the verge of giving up on life.
The Language of Clothes came to be highly regarded in the literature of couture and design. Lurie has returned with The Language of Houses, a provocative and entertaining journey through the architecture of houses and buildings and the divided spaces within come to reflect the attitudes and purposes of the organizations and people who inhabit them.
"Meandering and frivolous"
Tom McCann, a professor of sociology, and his young assistant, Roger, infiltrate a religious cult group based in New York State, deciding it will make excellent study material. But they find it hard to maintain their deception, especially as Verena, the cult's leader, is an attractive woman.
Faculty wife Emily Stockwell Turner is beautiful, rich, and principled. However, five years in a marriage devoid of passion is enough to propel Emmy, despite her principles, into an affair with silver-tongued Will Thomas, a self-confessed libertine. The shocking, unforeseen consequences of their affair shatter Emmy's most cherished delusions about friendship, romance, and the ties that bind.
In nine spooky tales, Alison Lurie writes of women haunted by ghosts both literal and metaphorical: A woman about to marry Mr. Right is visited by the spirit of his first wife; a dead fiancé haunts a foreign service officer every time she has an intimate moment with another man; the ghost of a girl in a Halloween costume disconcerts the perfect housewife.
"predictable story lines"
The mansion is called Illyria, but for the writers and artists who flock there each summer, it may as well be paradise. Away from family, friends, and ordinary responsibilities, the creative spirit can flower, nurtured by the company of other artistic souls. Janet Belle Smith's husband doesn't understand why she can't write at home - or really, for that matter, why she must write at all - but for Janet, the reason is clear. Only in Illyria can she be herself.
"Other reviewers have loved it, me ... not so much"
Dozing in the backseat of her father's car, Mary Ann Hubbard is the happiest eight-year-old in the country. It's 1935, and she and her parents are going to spend Fourth of July weekend with her headmistress and the Zimmerns, whose daughter, Lolly, is Mary Ann's best friend from school. While the two little girls frolic in the attic, endowing the rambling old house with wonder, creativity, and imagination, their parents are downstairs, mired in all the pleasure, pain, and occasional childishness of adulthood.
Truth and Consequences is a comedy about love and its disguises, and about identity and change, about the small disasters and sudden attractions that can turn even the most stable relationship upside down. Alison Lurie's latest novel suggests that a minor illness can cause major trouble. But it can also, with luck, determination, and the right sort of help, free both caregivers and caregetters to become more interesting, braver, and more passionate than they were before.