A Version of Love
Millicent Dillon
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Buy *A Version of Love: A Novel* online

A Version of Love: A Novel

Millicent Dillon
W.W. Norton & Co.
288 pages
April 2003
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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With eerie precision, A Version of Love author Millicent Dillon turns back the clock to the 1950's, when women and men move about in carefully constructed lives in predetermined roles. Like a vintage film in black and white, the opening scene focuses on a man and woman driving along a scenic highway in northern California, speaking infrequently. In closeup, he exudes assurance; she covertly watches him and imagines his thoughts, constantly weighing her options while suppressing jealous impulses.

Engaged in a silent struggle for domination, he is Edmund, she Lorle (perhaps an affectation); she is notably beautiful. A psychiatrist engaging in the forbidden, Edmund is having an affair with his, an hysteric with a penchant for dramatics. Unable to reign in his lust, Edmund has crossed an ethical line into forbidden territory. Already he is planning his getaway.

In spite of their transcendent passion, both are trapped in the roles of a rigidly constructed society, where he is easily the more dominant. Then car trouble undermines the road trip. Impressed by Edmund's charisma and Lorle's beauty, Vern, a taciturn local man, offers a ride to the airport. Flattered by Edmund's praise of his simple home, Vern graciously offers his hospitality to Edmund, time and future schedule permitting. Enthusiastic, the psychiatrist accepts, but later fails to follow through.

Upon their return to the Bay area, Edmund abruptly ends the affair and Lorle fights to recover her balance without relapsing into old behavior. She vacillates between reality and fantasy, continuing her efforts to tap into Edmund's motivation.

Thanks to a visit from a childhood friend, Vern rejects his simple lifestyle and follows the friend north to the city and along the California coast to Big Sur, where an appreciation for self-awareness is flowering. Later, in search of Edmund, Vern contacts Lorle, impetuously inviting her on a road trip to Mexico. Uncharacteristically agreeing, Lorle and Vern anticipate nights of sexual calisthenics.

Fast forward: Vern and Lorle driving through Mexico, passionate nights, distant days. Déjà vu. Will Vern and Lorle break the mold and communicate, or are they destined to reenact Lorle and Edmund's trip? When the credits role,the defining theme of the drama is clearly the social mores and personal isolation of the 50's. As bloodless and wooden as the characters appear, the fact is that Dillon's unflinching observations hit every mark.

© 2003 by Luan Gaines for Curled Up With a Good Book

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