Too far out and not drowning

This is my review of Loss of Innocence by Davi Patterson,Richard North Patterson.

In a break from his tense courtroom scenes and alpha male political dramas, the author makes an effective stab at writing from the female viewpoint, even if his women in the America of 1968 are still under the influence of a benign but controlling WASP patriarch.

A bright young graduate, Whitney Dane chooses too lightly the conventional path of devoting herself to husband and children. Only muted warning bells suggest to her that fiancé Peter is a little too compliant, accepting from her father Charles a job in high finance that does not really suit him, acquiescing to string-pulling, again by Charles, to avoid the Vietnam draft. Charles even gives the couple an upmarket flat in New York as their future home, stifling any desire to find their own place. In sharp contrast to all this, the assassination of Bobbie Kennedy, following so soon on that of JFK and Martin Luther King, shocks Whitney into a more questioning line of thought. She is therefore ripe to fall under the influence of Ben Blaine, an unconventional young man from a different class who encourages her to think for herself.

This book will resonate with those old enough to remember 1968, but non-Americans and those under sixty-five would probably appreciate an appendix or two to explain the background politics, in particular of the Democrats divided over Vietnam.

It grated on me a little that all the main characters seem to be born wealthy and privileged or achieve these attributes in due course. Perhaps this is because the successful and well-connected author simply does not know about ordinary people.

Another slight weakness for me is the device of book-ending the main story between scenes of "I want to tell you a story" and "So this is how it worked out afterwards". In this case, we see Whitney in her sixties, encountering a younger woman who was Ben's last lover. I found the opening section rather trite, and the conclusion dotted i's and crossed t's too explicitly, leaving little to the imagination. This approach may have been used because the novel is a prequel (to a book I have not read) and is intended as part of a trilogy which effectively makes the whole into a kind of soap opera.

North Patterson is a seasoned producer of bestsellers. He knows how to write a page-turner with a strong, pacy plot, a well-judged ending (of the main story), engaging dialogues and sharp insights. The descriptions of sailing and of Martha's Vineyard are very vivid, although I know nothing about either. Yet, some passages cry out for rigorous editing to give a leaner and more edgy style rather than one that too often seems stilted or overblown.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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