Books: Romance Turned Upside Down

A MOTHER AND TWO DAUGHTERS by Gail Godwin; Viking; 564 pp.; $15.95

In simpler times, happy stories ended with a marriage proposal or a wedding. A Mother and Two Daughters is decidedly cheerful; but living happily ever after, in the old-fashioned sense, is the very fate its heroines struggle to escape. They find themselves in a romance turned upside down: girl meets boy, boy offers her his hand, she shakes it and marches on.

In four earlier novels and a collection of short stories, Author Gail Godwin, 44, has presented a distinctive gallery of rogues, female, troubled and courageous. They tend to have...

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