Books: Deliberate Speed, Stunning Effect the Finishing School

With A Mother and Two Daughters (1982), her fifth novel, Gail Godwin joined that select circle of critically praised authors who have also produced bestsellers. This happy event entitled her longtime admirers to mixed emotions. While it is pleasurable to see a favored writer receive the success she deserves, it is irksome to realize that membership in a small club of discriminating readers has suddenly been thrown open to multitudes. If so many people, the reasoning follows, liked Godwin's loose, loving chronicle of three plucky females, then maybe we should find it disappointing. And whom will she write for next time,...

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