"We were supposed to be perfect ladies, virgins, compliant hypocrites; and the future wives of Harvard men . . ." reminisces Emily Buchman, one of four members of Radcliffe's Class of '57 whom Rona Jaffe depicts in "After the Reunion." This novel, the sequel to "Class Reunion" (1979), shows the affluent quartet immersed in romantic and domestic crises in the 1980s. They are also trying to outgrow the repressive social and moral code demurely obeyed by most Radcliffe women 30 years earlier.
During her college days, Emily aspired to be a doctor. After being told to marry one instead, she wed dermatologist Ken Buchman, moved to Beverly Hills and had two children. Unfortunately, Emily's outwardly idyllic existence is a farce. Ken--who furtively snorts cocaine--brow beats her relentlessly, her children are unaffectionate, and servile Emily tolerates the abuse of all three. When her marriage disintegrates, she establishes a thriving cookie-baking business, then vaults to entrepreneurial fame.
Daphne "Golden Girl" Caldwell suppresses her discontent to avoid irritating her husband. Richard Caldwell usually rebuffs anyone with flaws, so the retardation of their institutionalized daughter goes unmentioned, as does Daphne's epilepsy and the other youngsters' growing pains. Richard's rigidity eventually destroys their teen-age son Jonathan, who hangs himself to escape the smothering artificiality of the Caldwell household. Daphne's discovery of her husband's infidelity finally compels her to choose between divorce or life with this callous philanderer.