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Book Review : Saga of the Stanmores Comes to an End in '30s

April 30, 1985|BETTY LUKAS | Betty Lukas is a Times copy editor

A Future Arrived by Phillip Rock (Seaview/Putnam's: $15.95)

This is the final volume of Phillip Rock's "Passing Bells Trilogy," and here he concludes the saga of the aristocratic Stanmores of Abingdon.

Readers who have followed the elegant English family in two earlier volumes will now find them and their heirs in the '30s, that dizzy Jazz Age that begins as a lark and ends grimly at the brooding and befuddled beginning of World War II.

The young boys who had been packed off to boarding school become the young men who are packed off to flight training. The almost-blooming girls who had been testing their dazzle in front of mirrors become the blooming young women who learn to love those young pilots--and let go. This is war, after all. And the British know what to do in war.

"A Future Arrived" is a wonderfully old-fashioned book. It's an Elizabeth Goudge kind of book. It is full of characters who value honor, nobility, courage and commitment. Although fully developed--no simple stick figures here--these people keep the details of their sex lives to themselves and swear only when under extreme pressure. Amazing, isn't it? And refreshing.

Its characters are reflective and thoughtful as well as spunky and visceral. There are a few trite bits of dialogue and some predictable scenes, but we still manage to get involved with them. More's the pity when some of them suffer and die in "the province of madness, war."

Is a novel about World War II dated? Is a novel that reminds us of war's horror irrelevant? Read the headlines.

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