Picks and Pans Review: Frank and Maisie
He was Frank Sheed, born in Australia; she was Maisie Ward, daughter of a wealthy, eccentric British Catholic family. Together they went to the parks in London in the '30s and '40s to preach to anyone who would listen—and argue. They particularly liked a good argument. They had a daughter and then a son, critic-novelist Wilfrid Sheed, who tells this story of his parents' lives with grace and affection. Frank and Maisie created a perfect place for themselves as publishers of Catholic books in London and New York. Frank also lectured wherever he was invited. Their son paints portraits of totally devout, buoyant, affectionate, self-created human beings. There is a bit too much about Catholicism for readers who have limited interest in the church, but Frank, whistling silly tunes constantly, and Maisie, loving American jazz and chattering away about big ideas, are always engaging. The author can be pretty entertaining himself with such offhand comments as "Converts have always vied with each other in accounts of their previous sinfulness (not realizing the envy this rouses in us born Catholics—couldn't we have just a few years like that?)." Sheed also creates a vivid, literary world of his parents' lively friends and constant travel. Frank and Maisie is not only a lovely, loving tribute, it's a joy for readers. (Simon and Schuster, $17.95)
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