Loving Attitudes by Rachel Billington
The milieu of her 10th and latest novel is familiar Billington terrain. Mary and David Tempest's comfortable, largely unexamined life as upper-middle-class London professionals is called forcibly and irrevocably into question by the sudden appearance of Mary's illegitimate daughter, given up for adoption 22 years earlier. In a quest for her natural parents, Elizabeth Crocker, the U.S.-reared daughter for whom Mary appears totally devoid of maternal feelings or compassion, acts as the catalyst for a mid-life marital crisis for both the Tempests and a neighboring Foreign Office couple on whom their lives impinge. Elizabeth also disturbs the life of her much older father, Richard Beck, and her college-age stepsister, Lucy Tempest. Lucy and her boyfriend Jo are as well-captured here as Elizabeth is not; Billington has a tourist's understanding of Americans. But the English characters' bilious perception of the girl's Americanness rings true, and so does their reluctance to scrutinize themselves very deeply. It would be interesting to plumb David's arrogant hypocrisy and self-indulgence, Mary's coldness and their mutual lack of self-knowledge and moral stature for which adulterous couplings serve as a substitute. Unfortunately, Billington's unsympathetic characters are curiously dimensionless and, as a result, uninteresting.
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