One of Mary Lee Settle's richest and most compassionate novels, Celebration chronicles the love affair of a widowed American anthropologist and a Scottish geologist who meet in the British Museum. Set in 1969, the novel also tells the intertwining tales of the couple's diverse cast of friends - a gay English aristocrat and his Hong Kong love, a gargantuan Dinka Jesuit, a sexually subversive editor, a former colonial civil servant, and, as comic relief, an unwitting FBI agent. Despite the fact that these characters live in the most murderous of centuries and that many of them have encountered death in intimate fashion, they all choose to celebrate life.
This joyful novel ends with a wedding, a funeral, and a celebration - all in London, though the celebrants travel from countries across the globe. Together they view one of the twentieth century's strangest events - the landing on the moon - a happening which seems to presage an even more displaced future.
Teresa Cerutti is a 30-ish widow, a college teacher. After a brush with cancer, she throws it all in and sets out for London in 1960 for un autre moment, "a landscape of the past and the present that she would wander in without having to try anymore." She had lived a fairly interesting life up till now - especially when she traveled in Turkey with her husband - but being in the British Museum one morning brings her into contact with Ewen, a Scotch geologist who is recovering from malaria contracted in Africa. Not only does Ewen bring a Conradian story of exploitation and disillusion, but his friends, too, have stories that seem each more interesting than the other. There's a young nobleman named Noel, flare. boyantly homosexual; a Congolese Catholic priest (six foot nine); a group of rough Irish hoods who have to be persuaded to return a Cezanne they casually lifted from the Victoria and Albert. And more. Such eccentricity and variety could be very enjoyable, free-spirited - but Settle seems somewhat constrained by the need to work up a minimal plot (that the CIA is watching Teresa, convinced that all these people she knows in London are working in subversive concert). More seriously flawing, a certain monologue-esque stiffness attaches to the way the characters tell about their lives and days. Settle's strong suit as a writer is characterization, of course - but away from the West Virginia backdrops of her other books (The Killing Ground, Blood Tie, The Scapegoat), this one seems by comparison a mite stagy and audition-like. (Kirkus Reviews)
Series: Mary Lee Settle Collection
Number Of Pages: 372
Published: 1st October 1995
Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 20.32 x 14.1
Weight (kg): 0.51
Edition Type: New edition