Librettist Philip Cavanaugh is at a very low ebb, following the disastrous opening (and closing) night of his and collaborator Claire Simmons’s cheeky musical satire. He is, therefore, unable to mount any defence against ex-lover and dear friend Gilbert Selwyn’s latest brilliant moneymaking plan. Or, as he puts it, “that fateful afternoon when Disaster, brilliantly disguised as Opportunity, first bade me come closer and listen awhile.”
From time to time over the following weeks Phillips manages to surface from the glamorous whirlpool of competing publishing moguls, family in-fighting, talentless but egotistical women of power, and deception to castigate himself for once again listening to Gilbert. For the most part, however, he is swept up in the intrigue of planting hidden mics, rubbing shoulders with New York’s crème de la crème, and competing with Gilbert for the attentions of the distractingly divine Tommy Parker.
This sequel to Blue Heaven is delightful. My humble wordsmithing cannot pay due homage to Keenan’s wit, a feat made more difficult by my leaving this review until some weeks after reading the novel. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the machinations of the plot, the beautifully witty writing, the subtle (and not so subtle) character shadings, and the sparkling humour that lights almost every page. My only hiccup came at the line: “Charmed to see you again,” she said, and, pivoting toward the door, breezed regally past Dunbar, her fanny undulating like a lava lamp.” As fanny means something rather different here than it does in the US, I had to pause a moment before continuing. That small cultural gap aside, Keenan is perfect for those days when you need something intelligent, but light, amusing but not trivial, contemporary but harking back to the eras of Wodehouse, Coward and Wilde. - Alex