Magazine article The Spectator

Going Round the Bend in a Bunch

Magazine article The Spectator

Going Round the Bend in a Bunch

Article excerpt

MAGGIE'S TREE by Julie Walters Weidenfeld, £16.99, pp. 256, ISBN 0297848690 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

If you had a friend who was an actress, and she was on the brink of a nervous collapse, what would you do to cheer her up? Or rather, what wouldn't you do? I bet you wouldn't take her to New York to visit a mutual friend, another actress, who was starring on Broadway -- after all, that would be a bit vindictive, wouldn't it? I mean, what's more likely to give an actress a nervous breakdown than the success of a close personal friend?

Well, Cissie O'Brien is a comedienne (ghastly, unfunny word), so perhaps she does it as a joke: she whisks her depressed actress friend, Maggie Salt, off to Manhattan to visit their pal Helena Cassidy who is the current toast of the theatre world. Nice work, Cissie. Before anyone has had time to say 'darling', Maggie's lost it. She's given her friends the slip and is 'out of her tree' in a bar somewhere.

Cissie and Helena mount a half-hearted attempt to find Maggie, but they don't get very far since that would involve having to stop thinking about themselves for five minutes, which is plainly impossible. As well as being entirely self-involved they are given to hysterics of one kind or another, and so poor old Maggie does not stand much chance of being found.

Fortunately, she has been rescued by a kind stranger (one feels that she might have relied too often on the kindness of such strangers), Michael, who shepherds her into a cab and takes her home with him. …

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