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Cold Spring Harbor

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A brilliantly written exploration of youth and self-delusion by the author of Revolutionary Road

About the Author

Richard Yates was born in 1926 in New York and lived in California. His prize-winning stories began to appear in 1953 and his first novel, Revolutionary Road, was nominated for the National Book Award in 1961. He is the author of eight other works, including the novels A Good School, The Easter Parade, and Disturbing the Peace, and two collections of short stories, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness and Liars in Love. He


The central ``character'' and enveloping presence in this novel is a ``whole rotten little town'' on the north shore of Long Island. In no sense the Cold Spring Harbor of the tourists and summer people, it is the dismal home base where the characters live out their disappointments and aborted hopes in the period before and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Evan Shepherd, a lout as boy and man, a machinist in love with cars, is the son of a retired Army officer reduced to the role of valet to his neurasthenic, alcoholic second wife, Rachel, daughter of a garrulous, socially pretentious alcoholic madwoman. Rachel's brother Phil, a 16-year-old prep-school student, is the only character who might conceivably develop into a substantial person. The lives portrayed are bleak, trivial, thwarted, vapid, but they are made memorable against all odds by Yates's high virtue as a writer. The power demonstrated in his earlier work (A Good School; The Easter Parade is reconfirmed here; he can bring a scene, a subject, a character to sharply detailed focus through an unswerving fidelity to the grim truths of existence, related in a clear and ringing prose. (September 12)

The setting is a small Long Island town on the eve of World War II. Denied his chance for glory in World War I, Charles Shepard lives on a small army pension, his alcoholic wife a bitter reminder of his thwarted dreams. Their son Evan has a short, disastrous marriage when young, then passes up college to marry Rachel Drake. Happiness eludes Evan and Rachel when they opt to move in with Rachel's mother and brother. The strain of adjusting to his new familyand resentment over skipping college and failing his military physicallead Evan to start an affair with his ex-wife, even though Rachel is pregnant. Overwhelmed by their dreary prospects, effectively depicted by Yates's terse prose, the characters live in hope that something good might happen. Recommended for large fiction collections. Michael J. Esposito, formerly with Special Libraries Assn . , Washington, D.C.

"Yates writes with a sympathy so clear-hearted that it often feels like nostalgia for his own youth, and yet he is also thoroughly uncompromising in revealing their capacity for self-delusion, their bewilderment in the face of failure" * New York Times * "So consistently well-written, just, unsentimental and sympathetic" * Washington Post * "Read and weep" -- Kate Atkinson "Yates's prose is as elegant and minimalist as ever... He simply tells the story - in easily comprehensible but perfectly pitched language" -- Leyla Sanai * *

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