Picks and Pans Review: The Fortune

UPDATED 03/13/1989 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 03/13/1989 at 01:00 AM EST

by Michael Korda

Those tempted to read this novel can save time and money by simply tuning in when it becomes a miniseries. The Fortune has already been sold to ABC for just such a purpose, and it would not be putting too fine a point on things to suggest that Korda wrote The Fortune for just such a purpose. This is a book that should be divided not into chapters but segments, with blank pages to indicate commercial breaks. As a novel, it doesn't even qualify as trash; there aren't any decent sex scenes, for one thing. The plot centers on Elizabeth Alexandra Walden, generally known as Alexa, a canny Illinois farm girl who leaves home under unspecified but clearly tragic circumstances, burdened, as so many of us are, by being excessively gorgeous: "She was not a particularly vain young woman, but she was realistic about her looks. She knew that men found her beautiful, and she enjoyed the fact, but in truth her face had never completely satisfied her. The nose was too straight, she thought, the lips too full, the mouth too wide." Working as an assistant to an art dealer, she meets Arthur Bannerman, a failed presidential candidate, the head of one of America's wealthiest, most prestigious families and a guy who thinks Alexa's nose, lips and mouth are just fine. He's 64 and she's, well, let's just say Alexa is a lot younger than Arthur. They eventually marry, and the day after their secret wedding. Arthur dies while he and his bride are in the middle of, well, let's just say he dies under circumstances made in tabloid heaven. (O tempora! o mores! O Nelson Rockefeller, o Megan Marshack.) When Arthur's revised will discloses that he left everything to Alexa, the newly widowed Mrs. Bannerman goes head to head with Arthur's children: sleazy Robert, sulky Cecilia and soporific Putnam. She must also confront Arthur's mother, Eleanor, the Bannerman clan's matriarch, a woman with (naturally) a will of iron and so many diamonds that cleaning them takes a week. Will Eleanor ever respect her new daughter-in-law? Will Alexa ever feel comfortable at the family estate, Kiawa? Will Robert succeed in his nefarious plans? Will the producers be able to get Jane Seymour for the Alexa part? (Summit, $19.95)

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