Cynthia Propper Seton Peter S. Prescott - Essay

Peter S. Prescott

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In A Fine Romance two American families converge in an eight-day package tour of Sicily. Kitty Winters has had six children and time to think about the women's movement. She has decided to stay with her husband, Gerard, but she makes quarrelsome demands, little stabs at his psyche that leave the poor insensitive man confused. Gerard never noticed the crisis in their marriage; he loves his wife but he doesn't listen to her. Her sniping leaves him lonely and frustrated…. Alexia Reed, eighteen years younger, reminds him of his erotic fantasies, but Gerard, for the time at least, is monogamous; touring the ruins of an ancient civilization he is mindful that it is from repression that civilizations are made.

From such ingredients a dull writer would have made a soap opera. Fortunately, Cynthia Seton is very clever. She writes about intelligent people who have read good books, are capable of good arguments and aware that they do not always say quite what they mean. Her adults are all, one way or another, walking wounded—Alexia has come to Sicily with her family to help her sister recover from a nervous breakdown—and think of themselves, at one time or another, as victims. Good novels about workable marriages are almost extinct today, but Seton's is one: it is witty, observant and precise—and, oddly for a story by a feminist, it offers more sympathy to the good, dull husband than to the resigned, uncomfortable wife. (pp. 108-09)

Peter S. Prescott, "Connubial Blitz," in Newsweek (copyright 1976, by Newsweek, Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. LXXXVII, No. 20, May 17, 1976, pp. 108-09.