Picks and Pans Review: Another Marvelous Thing

updated 05/05/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/05/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Laurie Colwin

These eight short stories are all about the same adulterous couple: Billy, a young woman who cares nothing about clothes or style, and her lover Francis, a dapper older man. Billy is married to an economist who probably is a genius. Francis is married to a successful decorator. He thinks of Billy as grouchy, and she is. He believes that "It often seems that the function of romance is to give people something romantic to think about." Both Billy, an economics historian, and Francis, an investment counselor, write for minor journals. For a year or so they've rendezvoused at Billy's New York brownstone. She refuses to go to his house because it makes her feel "as if she was imprisoned inside a tea cozy." He is curious to know all about her; she doesn't want to know about his two grown sons. Billy and Francis are a strange couple, and the only thing they seem able to share is love. Eventually Billy breaks away. Two years later she has a baby—an event that is frighteningly, wonderfully described—and then runs into Francis, who is with a beautiful young woman. Billy is dismayed to find that she is jealous; Francis is angry that she has had a baby and that he knew nothing about it. Colwin is the author of three novels and two other volumes of short stories. She writes about sophisticated people—self-conscious, analytical, groping, sometimes profoundly aware characters. Nothing could be more overworked these days than her subject matter, but Colwin's calm prose always gives her material a special grace. She digs a little deeper, finds a truth, and makes a reader feel grateful and well rewarded. (Knopf, $13.95)

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