Yuppie tale by an author on verge of serious fiction

Husbands and Lovers, by Ruth Harris. New York: Macmillan. 378 pp. $16.95 Author Ruth Harris is dangerously close to moving beyond the reef that separates the lagoon of popular fiction from deeper waters. Her prose is sharp, her eye keen as she relates the attempts of her protagonist, Carlys Webber, to attain young-urban-professional status. Carlys achieves her goal, replete with a successful husband with similar tastes for the right wine, the right boutique, the absolutely perfect little restaurant; and when hubby loses his job and forgets to court her, she finds the absolutely right lover.

She and the other characters provide a disturbing commentary on what is touted as the most prevalent force in American society these days -- the Yuppie.

Ruth Harris is at her best in swift moves. With a pen like the rapier of Zorro she slashes across the breeches of the minor characters whose foibles she exposes. But she becomes tedious when she inundates us with lists of brand names, place-names, people names, and flashbacks that roll ponderously across the pages. She also seems more comfortable within the confines of the feminine mind, for her male characters come off as one-dimensional, despite, or perhaps because of, the use of pop psychology to explain them.

While the primary purpose here is to entertain, there are indications that this author will be well equipped for finding the truths a writer can discover once she starts fishing deeper waters.

Jaye Wilson is working on her second novel.

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