Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dinner at Antoine's by Frances Parkinson Keyes

Oh, dear. I thought the novel was going to be about the famed New Orleans restaurant, or about food in some way. Not so. If you want to find out who murdered the invalid Odile St.-Amant -- was it her estranged husband, LĂ©once? her sister, Caresse, who is also carrying on with him? -- I'm sorry but you will have to read further than I did. Frances Parkinson Keyes has an atrocious ear for dialogue, despite her prose being good. So atrocious is it that I had to put the thing aside in disgust. And yes, I did struggle manfully past the first chapter, where I had to read things like this (it's Orson Foxworth speaking):

" dear, the fascinating creature clinging to my arm is Amelie Lalande, the envy of all lesser charmers. I see that Odile's already made up for my negligence by introducing herself, and perhaps she's told you which is really her sister and which is really her husband. Yes? Well, I thought so. The Viking-looking chap on the other side of Caresse is Russ Aldridge -- Russell Wainwright Aldridge, Ph.D. -- a fast man with a hieroglyph, a drink, a samba, and a back-to-back pair of Jacks, in the order named! And finally, Dr. Perrault, who painted tonsils for Odile and Caresse when they were only knee-high to a puddle duck. But they don't hold that against him and you needn't either .... Have you had a drink yet? As you see, some of our guests got desperate because we were so late and very wisely started in on Sazeracs." 

And it goes on and on. The worst is when the characters are made to think to themselves, in italics. Parkinson Keyes was very prolific in a time when (and readers of Vellum will recognize a theme) the American publishing industry simply seems to have put out better books than it does now -- so I can only hope that Dinner at Antoine's was an anomaly among her works. If I discover that Blue Camellia or Station Wagon in Spain were any better, I will try to report so as soon as possible.  

No comments:

Post a Comment