Jeffrey (Howard) Archer Betty Lukas - Essay

Betty Lukas

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

If you're expecting another prodigal son parable here, forget it.

Although separation and reunion are part of this multifaceted contemporary novel ["The Prodigal Daughter"] by the English author of "Kane and Abel," they are but a minor part. And other themes—just as those other themes in the biblical parable—are more provocative.

Through his primary character, Florentyna Rosnovski, Archer probes such intriguing topics as power, politics, pride, parochialism and prejudice. He also deals with some old-fashioned virtues—fidelity, honor and integrity as they affect this only child of a Polish immigrant who has amassed a huge fortune by hard work and canny—but mostly honest—business strategy….

Given that background, you say, the novel must be pure romance. Romance it is. Don't knock it.

There is pain, of course, but it heals; there is failure, but it pales; there is estrangement, but it passes. And there is love, honor and fidelity. And you'll lap it up. Florentyna's husband is so stalwart, so devoted, so enduringly loving that he teeters on the brink of dullness. Their children—with the exception of one little slip by Annabel—are models of deportment (probably because of their nanny).

If you're not already aching with jealousy—if you're a woman, that is—let me rub a little salt in the wound. Florentyna wants to be the first woman President. Quite logically she approaches her goal by being elected to Congress. Then she moves on to the Senate. She's admired and respected by her colleagues. How could it be otherwise, given our ingredients?

And, as she moves toward the presidency with the courage of a Clarence Darrow, Archer creates so much suspense in the dialogue that the usual chase scene seems like a turtle race. Does Florentyna get what she wants? Settle into the blankets and find out for yourself. It's that kind of novel.

Betty Lukas, "A Probe of Power, Pride, Politics," in Los Angeles Times Book Review (copyright, 1982, Los Angeles Times; reprinted by permission), October 24, 1982, p. 10.