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New novels that prove money can’t buy you happiness

August 10, 2018 4:00 AM
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The entire Tabor family has gathered in Palm Springs to celebrate the anointment of Harry Tabor to the desert community’s highest honour, Man of the Decade, recognizing 30 years of humanitarian service. With him is Roma, his wife of 44 years, a prominent child psychologist; their daughters, social anthropologist Camille and attorney Phoebe; and his lawyer son Simon. As the story opens, Harry muses that he is a lucky man — and Wolas responds balefully from the wings, “But luck is a rescindable gift.” Indeed. Brace yourself for prose that is confident and prickly, and characters that are complex and problematic. This is the New York City writer’s second novel, after the well-received The Resurrection of Joan Ashby.

Engagement parties involving striking income disparity between the bride and groom’s family are reliable escapist fodder (viz. Elin Hilderbrand’s current bestselling The Perfect Couple). Dorothea Benton Frank’s new novel begins with two engagement parties, the first in groom Fred’s milieu, South Carolina’s Low Country, where we meet his family of “eccentric hillbillies,” which is how Fred’s mother, Diane, describes her unruly brood. The second, and way more affluent, is at the Chicago penthouse of bride Shelby’s father, Alejandro, a financier, and his wife, Susan. Well-drawn characters, saucily told.

There have been countless retellings of the Abdication Crisis of 1936, when Edward VIII gave up the throne of England to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, “the woman I love.” There have been almost as many accounts of the shocking death of Princess Diana in 1997. Gill Paul’s fifth historical novel links these two events by riffing off a coincidence: the day Diana died, she visited Villa Windsor, in the Bois de Boulogne, Wallis’s last home. In this fictional mash-up, we meet Rachel, a young antiques dealer who is in a taxi behind Diana and Dodi’s Mercedes when it crashes. This kicks off Rachel’s discovery of a curious bond between Wallis and Diana, both thorns in the side of the British monarchy.


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