Men and Angels

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Mother, housewife, and art historian Anne Foster is experiencing a hectic year. Her husband is teaching in France, she is researching the life and works of the twentieth century painter Caroline Watson, she is caring for nine-year-old Peter and six-year-old Sarah, and, in addition, she is supervising the rewiring of her home.

Laura Post’s unexpected arrival and quick employment as caretaker of the children and house seems at first to solve Anne’s problems. Peter and Sarah respond readily to Laura, who possesses a maniacal yet useful devotion to housework. Alarmingly, however, Laura also develops a deep emotional dependency upon Anne.

Anne is uneasy around Laura, disturbed by the girl’s impenetrable calm, silent but strange habits, and lack of normal social graces. Needing Laura’s assistance in order to pursue research, though, Anne continues to employ her.

Caroline Watson’s life fascinates Anne. Caroline sacrificed social respectability to be an artist; she bore a child out of wedlock and gallantly tried to rear her son before abandoning his upbringing to relatives. Anne sifts through Caroline’s diaries and letters, as well as the memories of surviving friends and family. For Anne, Caroline’s life becomes an occasion to meditate upon her own relationships with parents, husband, and children.

Laura grows more intrusive into Anne’s life and more demanding of her affections. The girl believes that it is God’s will that she help Anne break away from those burdensome commitments to work and family. Before Laura can act, Anne fires her for endangering the children, but Laura departs only after implementing a terrible plan to ensure that no one will forget...

(The entire section is 701 words.)