Born in 1940, Paula grows up with no knowledge of her father, and by the time she enters college, she has begun to rebel against the frenetic life of the fashion elite, among whom her mother has reared her. Paula’s greatest emotional support during her youth comes from her friendship with Nicolas, son of Babs Hollins, the centerpiece of her mother’s circle of publishing intimates. Nicolas runs away to join the navy, and Paula has a nervous breakdown before meeting and marrying Julian Symonds, a one-armed apostate Episcopal priest.
Ten years later, in 1970, Nicolas has returned and is living in New York City with Paula and Julian and their daughter, Georgia. Paula feels compelled to join her mother in Rome, where Nada Fitzsimmons has been living plainly and doing hospital volunteer work since her retirement from BEST.
By 1978, they are all together in New York, with Paula on the road as an actress, Julian writing, Nicolas becoming a fashionable chef, and Nada writing her memoirs. The handsome young Georgia prowls West Harlem on roller skates while prepping for Radcliffe College. With the death of Babs Hollins, Nicolas’ mother, a whole way of life seems to pass away for the survivors.
OCTOBER BLOOD begins with a lavish party for Coco Chanel on a visit to New York, and the satiric scenes are witty and vivid. The lonely childhoods of Nicolas and Paula underline the aridity of much of Nada and Babs’s world. By the time Babs dies, the humanity and decency of the characters dominate the tone, and OCTOBER BLOOD ends with an affirmation of the courage its likable people demonstrate.
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