Picks and Pans Review: Sleeping Beauty

updated 10/28/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/28/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Judith Michael

It's rather frightening to consider that it actually took two people (Judith Michael in the pen name of a husband-wife team) to turn out this novel. On the other hand, perhaps it's better that Judith Barnard and Michael Fain write together rather than separately; otherwise, there could he two novels like Sleeping Beauty.

The heroine is shy, gangly Anne Chatham, scion of fabulously successful Chicago land developers. At 13, she is raped by her short, blond, handsome, crinkly-grinnned snake of an uncle, Vince. The sexual abuse continues until Anne's 15th-birthday party, where she reveals the brutishness to the rest of the family. Their skepticism (particularly that of her father, Charles, and grandfather Ethan, the Chatham patriarch) leaves Anne distraught. She runs away to Haight Ashbury, changes her last name to Garnett, hangs out, gets bored, enrolls at Berkeley, subsequently graduates from Harvard Law School and becomes a high-powered divorce lawyer, revealing nothing about her horrific past.

"She was like a chiseled goddess in one of the great royal tombs of Egypt," notes one of the novel's key characters, "flat, frozen, aloof....He wondered what had frozen Anne Garnett so that she was only a partial woman...." Meanwhile, misogynistic Uncle Vince, ostracized from the family—grandfather Ethan, it turns out, believed every word of Anne's story—becomes a wealthy, powerful real estate mogul in Colorado, then a Senator, and there is loud, serious talk of his making a run for the White House, until Anne comes out of hiding to attend Ethan's funeral. Will Anne spill the beans about Vince, thus crushing his hopes for the key to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Will Vince, a quick hand at getting rid of people who block his way, succeed in eliminating Anne and vengefully decimating the Chatham fortune? Will a prince show up to wake the sleeping beauty? With one-dimensional characters, plotting that signals its intention 100 pages in advance and soap opera sound bites like "Everything you've done to this family has been as foul as your tongue.... You've left a trail of evil. You don't have the right to call yourself Ethan Chatham's son," few will care. (Poseidon, $22.00)

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