Books: Bankbooks & Backgrounds

THE HOUSE OF FIVE TALENTS (369 pp.) —Louis Auchincloss—Houghton Mifflin ($4.50).

Josiah Hoyt was a pompous, puffed-up railroad executive who managed to lose all his own money, much of his wife's considerable fortune, and sulked for two years before he finally died at the dinner table. He sat there cooling for quite a while before his wife noticed the difference.

The rest of the characters wheeled out in Author Auchincloss' filigreed tale of a family fortune are only slightly more alive than Josiah. A lawyer by profession, Auchincloss probes with exasperating precision through the backgrounds and bankbooks of the five-generation descendants of one...

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