Picks and Pans Review: Democracy

updated 05/07/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/07/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Joan Didion

"Sunday lunch in the summertime is a good time of day for such women, particularly if they wear straw hats that shade their eyes and silk shirts that cover their elbows and if they resist the inclination to another glass of white wine after lunch." Didion is writing in typically indirect, revealing ways in this romantic novel about a woman from an old and snobbish family in Hawaii. The heroine marries a man who becomes a U.S. Senator, but he fails in a try for the Presidency. At a moment of crisis the heroine leaves him for an adventurer she has loved for years; he is trying to rescue her daughter, who is trapped in Saigon as the city falls to the North Vietnamese. This is a cleverly written novel—Didion herself is a character in its unfolding. It's about celebrities, about those people we see every day in news pictures and on the society pages. The dialogue is crisp, funny and pointed. The scenes are brief, yet remarkably real because Didion knows exactly those details that make a story come alive. The title is odd—the novel could just as easily have been called Love and Death in Hawaii or A Life of Her Own. But Democracy creates its own unique spell, one that lingers long after the last page has been turned. (Simon and Schuster, $13.95)

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