An affair to remember, Jane Vandenburgh's new novel is a spellbinding and fearless portrait of the complex erotics of modern married life. Fire, flood, and earthquake-the typical California disaster scenario pales in comparison to the calamity waiting to occur when Anna meets Alex in The Physics of Sunset. Fellow Easterners-in-exile-to-Berkeley, the almost-divorced poet Anna and the very married architect Alex start an affair that soon threatens their formerly well-ordered lives. Science, sex, and the clash between East and West (coasts) form the nucleus of this blisteringly smart satire of contemporary mores and morals. "The sex alone makes the pages tremble, but there is much more, brilliantly told. She is the Colette and Jean Rhys of our own Cte d'Azur. "-James Salter"Each of the many layers of this new novel exudes a quirky brilliance, lots of soul and acerbic humor, with great tenderness shining underneath it all. "-Anne Lamott"In this elegant book, a season of freedom and joy-an escape into secrecy from the politics of liberation by two people bound for a time to one another-leads to suffering that is profound and clarifying.
" -Wendell Berry"The Physics of Sunset is a gorgeous poem to human and physical observation. Reading it is like being given the gift of second sight. "-John Burnham Schwartz
An upmarket romance by Vandenburgh (Failure to Zigzag, 1989), in which the hazy domestic boundaries of several families are further complicated by full-fledged adultery. It's probably a point of local pride that there is no such thing as a typical Berkeley family, but the Shays are certainly a good specimen anyway. Anna is a poet, husband Charlie teaches music at Mills College. Although very light-skinned, Anna is black and was well prepared for an interracial marriage by a childhood and adolescence spent largely in the company of whites. Charlie, it turns out, has recently had a run-in with the college authorities over a love affair he carried on with one of his graduate students: the girl's parents found out and threatened to sue the college, and so Charlie had to hustle to get her accepted into a better program elsewhere as a way of buying her silence. Anna assumes a kind of cynicism in regard to this, as she does with everything, but she is more hurt than she cares to admit At a party she meets Alee, a Jewish architect from New York, and the two soon begin an affair of their own. Alec, married to painter Gina, is much more sexually adventurous than Charlie seems to be. After a while, Alee finds himself in love - and the real trouble begins. Affairs are a dime a dozen in college towns, but can love flourish on the sly? Berkeley plays by roles of its own, but it is (still) part of the real world. Get ready for a bumpy ride. Amusing but heavy-handed, with portentous prose as well suited to a bodice-buster as to an academic novel ("She came, then came, and falling away into the place where she was both intact and completely gone, never having had so much of someone all at once and in her and this is how she learned she had never before been filled"). (Kirkus Reviews)