Granny Takes a Trip

By Waugh, Teresa | The Spectator, June 7, 1997 | Go to article overview

Granny Takes a Trip


Waugh, Teresa, The Spectator


Teresa Waugh

KISS AND KIN by Angela Lambert Bantam, L14.99, pp. 299

Harriet Capel, the heroine of Angela Lambert's new novel, Kiss and Kin, is a recently widowed grandmother in her midfifties who had spent the whole of her adult life married to a gentleman-farmer in Dorset. For all her Open University degree in Russian, she might as well have been living on the moon, reading 1950s editions of Woman's Own. Dorset, once the home of the likes of Bathsheba Everdene, not to mention Tess of the D'Urbervilles, becomes, with Lambert, a symbol of all that is old-fashioned, quiet and reasonable. There, there is no passion.

Indeed Harriet herself, as we learn in the opening sentence of the novel, has never experienced sexual passion; instead, she has dwelt in the realms of order, selfsacrifice and duty where she has ever been content to remain. She has been the epitome of the old-fashioned wife; thus, having always put her husband and her children first, she wishes that her daughter-in-law, Jennifer, would more readily consider her own children's needs. 'I don't see how feminism can object to that,' she thinks, confusing the issue.

It is not difficult to guess from the first sentence that the novel is bound thereafter to deal almost uniquely with sexual passion. So it is that Harriet goes to London to stay with her son for a week in order to celebrate a grandson's tenth birthday. On arrival she falls desperately, passionately, head-over-heels in love with Oliver Gaunt, sexagenarian, one-time spy, retired and living in France but, alack-a-day, the father of Harriet's daughter-in-law.

The action of the novel, which is mostly of a sexual nature, takes place within the space of one week. That in itself is quite an achievement, yet in so many other ways the book falls flat. Oliver is a tediously onedimensional character who is forever feeling his swelling cock in the purlieus of the Reform Club where he stays, but there is absolutely no sexual tension of the will-shewon't-she variety. …

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