When a wife reaches her breaking point, and her husband begins an ill-advised affair, civil war breaks out within their family.
Erica Tate wouldn't mind getting up in the morning if she enjoyed her children more. Until puberty struck, Jeffrey and Matilda were absolute darlings, but in the last year they have become sullen, insufferable little monsters. Erica's husband, Brian, is so deeply immersed in university life--and the legs of a half-literate flower child named Wendy--that he either doesn't notice his wife's misery or simply doesn't care. Worst of all their pleasant little neighborhood is transforming into a subdivision. And with each new ranch house that springs up around their lot, Erica's marriage inches closer to disaster.
Admitting she is sick of her family is only the first step. When the Tate household tips into full-scale emotional combat, Erica must do her best to ensure she comes out on top. In this darkly comic tale, there is nothing more important than having a good exit strategy.
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So Sixties. So Current.
The War Between the Tates was written in 1974, and it takes place in the late ‘60s. But its plot and its themes are quite current. The novel turns on issues like the importance of marital fidelity, the right to life, women in the workplace, alternative philosophies, lonely individualism and academic freedom. An attempt by students to shut down a right-wing, conservative professor could have taken place now.
This is a campus novel, focused on Erica Tate and her professor husband Brian. Both are attractive, smart, articulate and unhappy with middle age. Brian acts out with a needy, free-spirited graduate student, while Erica tries to maintain her ordered life. The events are potentially sad and disturbing, but Alison Lurie writes with a light, bemused touch (and she writes beautifully). The novel is frequently comic—a combination of Jane Austen manners and John Updike infidelity.
My only disappointment was the treatment of the Tates’ teenage children, Jeffrey and Matilda. They are never developed beyond a one-note grumpiness. I felt like Lurie was trying to show the generation gap without really understanding it.
The narration by Judith West was excellent.
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