The Last Blossom on the Plum Tree

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Brooke Astor, who inhabits the somewhat rarefied sphere populated by wealthy widows, reaches back to the glamorous 1920’s to spin a cautionary tale of love and passion set among the extravagantly monied set. Though callow youths abound, the main stage is devoted to Emily and Irma, widows of a certain age but not yet past their prime.

Emily, a connoisseur of emotions, is a vivacious, lovely woman determined--some day, that is--to be a has-been rather than a “never-been.” With her pretty face and good figure well in hand, her mere presence gives pleasure to her male companions and receives admiring tolerance from most of the ladies. A little fatigued, she takes a castle in Portofino for a restful holiday.

Irma, related to Emily by marriage, resembles a starved raven in her widow’s weeds. Despite her wealth, she has no appetite for the good life. When her cranky nature threatens to wreck a lucrative relationship, her lawyer sends young Charlie to distract Irma. In New York, London, Paris, and finally at Emily’s in Italy, they develop a murky affair so enthralling that Irma makes discreet inquiries about a face-lift.

At the castle, Emily has re-ignited a shipboard romance with an Italian prince. Together, they spend an idyllic week basking in the warm sunshine and resting in the golden glow of the full moon. These dazzled ladies are not alone in their amorous adventures. Around their feet like puppies, boisterous couples tease and wrestle. Pairing them off in various ways, Astor uses the youngsters to draw amusing portraits that shade into P. G. Wodehouse’s farcical territory.

With sly wit and affectionate patience, Astor brings spirited solutions to these sunset romances. Her charming vignettes of a bygone age resonate with special fidelity to the truths of the heart which she gently recommends to this jaded era.