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One Sunday Morning    by Amy Ephron order for
One Sunday Morning
by Amy Ephron
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This concise novel is set in the 1920s Jazz Age over a three month period, in New York and Paris. Mary Nell, hungover from a late party at the Waldorf the night before, joins three friends for an 11 a.m. bridge party at the home of writer Betsy Owens. Looking out the window, they notice twenty-year-old Lizzie Carswell leaving the Gramercy Park Hotel in her party clothes of the night before, with Billy Holmes, who's engaged to another friend, Clara Hart. 'She never did understand what it meant to be proper' is Betsy's indictment.

Though the foursome agree not to gossip, the news quickly spreads and Lizzie, abandoned by her mother when she was small and already tarred with the same brush, is ostracized - when she appears at the opera, the author tells us that 'a stillness came across the lobby, not quiet exactly, but it was as if the sound had dropped a number of decibels.' Soon afterwards, Lizzie leaves for Paris, apparently sent away by her father. In the meantime, Billy breaks his engagement with Clara, and the body of a dead young man in a tux is found 'washed up underneath the Hudson Street Pier.' Everyone assumes it is Billy.

Later, Mary accompanies Betsy, Iris (another of the bridge foursome) and Betsy's romantic nephew Geoffrey to Paris. There, they meet others involved in this quiet drama that began One Sunday Morning, leading to a surprising resolution of all that happened before. Appearances are deceptive in this elegant and tightly written tale of secrets amongst the rich and privileged. Mary is a young woman who seems to be at the hub of events, with all the other players confiding in her. But really, she discovers she's only on the periphery.

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