BOOK REVIEW / In brief

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The Independent Culture
Married Past Redemption by Stanley Middleton, Hutchinson pounds 14.99. From the 1974 Booker joint winner, a plethora of chit- chat between couples of three generations as the youngest of them approaches the altar. Curmudgeonly grandfather gets all the best lines, while the bride is bestowed with untold beauty, academic prowess and fluency in six languages. Among the wider congregation, a sampling of every variation on the marital (and divorced) state is represented, with Londoners tending to be media poseurs lording their spurious urbanity over the provincial 'glue-brains'. At least this is how Grandpa sees it. Intolerance rankles beneath the decorum. Maggie Traugott

Skylark's Song by Roy Hattersley, Macmillan pounds 14.99. The final part of this trilogy describes Hattersley's parents' courtship. In a Nottinghamshire pit village there's a romantic triangle which spins like a gyroscope until Father Hattersley declares his love for Enid Brackenbury. The author skirts the worst cliches of Lawrentian writing, but his blockbuster never develops the momentum its parts demand. Hugh Barnes

Home Truths by Sara Maitland, Chatto pounds 15.99. A society photographer loses her unlikeable financier lover, White Mischief-style, in Zimbabwe, but with her post-traumatic amnesia she can't remember what happened to him or why her own right hand was so badly mangled it had to be amputed. Hostile terrain, terrorists, angry ancestral spirits or murder? With prosthetic hand (itself almost a major character), she is whisked to her aristocratic Highland seat, where her High Church family (exposed gay vicar brother, saintly mother who celebrates the Feast of the Assumption by shooting a stag) try to crack the amnesia with the sledgehammer of love. Consistently readable, even if the themes are too prominent. Maggie Traugott