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The Children of the Roses    by Warren Adler order for
Children of the Roses
by Warren Adler
Order:  USA  Can
Sourcebooks, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by David Pitt

The story so far: Jonathan and Barbara Rose, embroiled in a savagely contested divorce, have systematically destroyed their home and possessions. Now they lie buried under a chandelier while their children, Josh and Eve, squabble over one of their parents' antiques. That's how The War of the Roses (1981) ends.

Flash forward nearly a quarter of a century. As The Children of the Roses opens, Josh is the happily-married father of two children, Michael and Emily, who are roughly the same ages as Josh and Eve were when their parents made the transition from divorcing spouses to murderous adversaries. Josh's sister, who's now called Evie, isn't married, but she does enjoy a succession of live-in boyfriends, which confuses a lot of people, since Evie has inherited her mother's passion for cooking but not her mother's self-restraint when it comes to eating.

But the Ship of Rose is not sailing altogether smoothly: Michael is involved in a little trouble at school, and Josh is having an affair with a colleague. Neither problem is speedily resolved, new problems arise, and soon Josh and his lovely wife, Victoria, are in the early stages of divorce.

Like father, like son? Will divorce escalate to all-out war? And what role will the food-fixated (and, by popular opinion, unbalanced) Evie play in this little family drama?

The War of the Roses, which Sourcebooks has just reissued in paperback by the way, was a splendid novel, alternately dramatic and satiric, the kind of novel that cried out for some moviemaker to turn it into a great black comedy. (Somebody did, in 1989: Danny DeVito directed Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner as Jonathan and Barbara.)

What about the sequel, though? If you have to give it a label, call this one a thriller. Adler sets the stage and then keeps us, the readers, in suspense. We know what happened in the first book, and we keep wondering: is Adler going to do the same thing again, or will he head off in a new direction? Is this War of the Roses, Part Two, or does the author have something new to say?

Yes, as it turns out, he does. The Children of the Roses is an excellent novel, a re-exploration of the themes of the first book from a new angle, a book that acknowledges the pessimism of its predecessor without embracing it. Josh and his wife, Victoria, aren't Jonathan and Barbara with new names; their kids aren't Jonathan and Barbara's kids.

One other thing, and this one's really important: the ghosts of Oliver and Barbara Rose do not haunt the pages of this novel. The parents are mentioned, from time to time (of course), but don't expect this to be one of those novels where people spend most of their time struggling with the memory of something that happened a long time ago. Whatever happens to Josh and Victoria (and Evie), it's entirely their own doing, and you can't blame it on parental karma.

Considering how bad some sequels are, especially sequels written a couple of decades after the original (anybody remember Ira Levin's Son of Rosemary?), The Children of the Roses is a remarkable achievement.

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