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Joan Didion's electrifying first novel is a haunting portrait of a marriage whose wrong turns and betrayals are at once absolutely idiosyncratic and a razor-sharp commentary on the history of California. Everett McClellan and his wife, Lily, are the great-grandchildren of pioneers, and what happens to them is a tragic epilogue to the pioneer experience, a story of murder and betrayal that only Didion could tell with such nuance, sympathy, and suspense.
achieved decision which had been, really, no decision at all: only an acquiescence. Was it, after all, so inevitable? The word why, once spoken out loud, could bring the pears all tumbling down. She would have to say that she loved him: it was the only incantation which would satisfy them, even as it would dispel her own illusions. Unspoken, it might still be true. Everett remained the flaw in the grain. His constant and incontrovertible presence intruded upon her, prevented her from
hysteria. (“That’s how people should live,” she had said about the planter of daffodils; he had suggested that she set out some daffodils around the house.) He wondered without interest if Channing had ever seen Lily cry. He supposed he had. He supposed every son of a bitch on the river had. He laid the gun on the dock and walked over to her. Her sweater had fallen from her shoulders, and he stooped to pick it up from the dirt. It was a pink cashmere sweater that belonged to Julie; one of the
she did not even think the Mexican place was open week nights. Anyway there was illegal gambling there and he did not want, did he, to get caught in a raid. That wouldn’t be very good business, would it. Go to hell, he said. He would telephone ahead. All right, she said, go find out, and as Sam got up from the table she saw Ryder Channing walk in from the golf course with a balding fat man. It was the first time she had seen Ryder without Nancy Dupree since December and she was faintly
what’s-his-name, that man we ran into at the baggage counter last night, mentioned some Honolulu interest.” “Honolulu interests,” Everett said. “That means Chinese investors. That’s what they call Chinese money now. Honolulu interests. That guy’s always got a deal going. I wouldn’t bank on the money.” Everett turned to Lily. “Channing,” he added. “We saw Channing at the airport.” “Channing,” Sarah repeated. “That’s his name. Wasn’t he a beau of Martha’s?” “No,” Everett said. “Ryder Channing
can’t stand the heat, and she had walked out of the house—resolutely not thinking about the three hours she had spent with somebody’s houseguest in a room at the Senator Hotel the night before—and driven straight to the lake); she had not even known Ryder was there until she ran into him outside Harrah’s Club on Sunday. For once she had been totally blameless, but she could scarcely explain this small irony to Knight. She did not know what Knight had been doing in Harrah’s Club in the first