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Branden, Victoria.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1985. 304pp, paper, $12.95, ISBN 0-7710-1508-9. (McClelland and Stewart Signature series). CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Barbara J. Graham

Volume 14 Number 2
1986 March

According to Jack McClelland, the new Signature series that was initiated in the fall of 1985 "will feature the works of established Canadian writers, but more importantly, it will launch the careers of new Canadian writers of promise." Victoria Branden's latest offering is one of three novels designated as "literary fiction" in this new series. An Ontario writer, Branden entertains the reader looking for light diversion in a Canadian setting. She indulges her talent for comic character and situation while providing a setting for the shenanigans that will be remote enough for most readers to readily suspend their disbelief and participate in the fun. Plateau, British Columbia, 1947, becomes the romantic world of Edmund and Fitz, who relay their stories, feelings, and reactions in their own chapters.

The Carter Brothers have contracted to dismantle a disused military airport. To the construction camp has come a collection of hard-drinking eccentrics, including a trail of cooks, all inept, until the four-hundred pound man-and-wife team arrive. Of course, they are not man and wife, but have run away from real life to fulfill their passion for each other. There are the university "willies" on their summer jobs, jockeying in their spare time for the love of Fitz. There is Edmund Richardson from the treasury department, who is in Plateau to reveal inefficiencies and large scale graft in the Carter operation, but, at the same time, hopes he may get a little of the graft himself. He would be really fortunate if he could find a wealthy woman as well. It should not be too hard as he finds himself quite irresistable. There is Anne Fitzgerald, university student, secretary, and payroll clerk. The reader may question how such a liberated, put-together young woman ever got herself mixed up with this crowd of rough diamonds. Money appears to be a strong motivating force in everyone's life in this novel. Best and last, there is Charlie Carter, whose comment, "Flitterin' Judas," repeated liberally throughout the novel, provides the leitmotif that unites the somewhat episodic narrative. Charlie, the owner of the company, is a great con man and male chauvinist, who turns out in true fashion to have his own type of heart of gold.

The novel is fun for adults in the mood for extravagance, in the mood for discovery that there has been life beyond Ontario, in the mood for some good social and political satire. Whether anyone but staff or senior high school students would have any interest is a moot point. Some raunchy sections might discourage some selectors. It is frustrating when episodes do not develop as fully as expected. Charlie Carter is himself rather puzzling; he deserves more. But if the reader feels inclined to snap, "Flitterin' Judas," it will be more in praise than in criticism.

Barbara J. Graham, Board of Education for the City of London, London, Ont.
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