By Howard Fast
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981
339 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
October 2016

I have vague memories that back in the 1980s I read not only this novel, but all four volumes of the story of the Lavette family. Actually I do recall that I not only read them but enjoyed them very much. Thus when my partner was reading the set I became interested again since I have virtually no memories of what the set was all about.

The volume she had available to me was the third and I read it in the past several days. It is definitely a fun read, however, I do know that given my current taste in literature, The Legacy just wasn’t what I’ve become used to reading in my reading of fiction in the past two decades or so. Nonetheless, it was a fun read and interested me enough that I spent some enjoyable hours reading away.

The central character of this volume is Barbara Lavette, an attractive rich and known author who lives in San Francisco. Her family history goes back to the founding of San Francisco, and her parents are among the wealthiest people in town. Barbara is a published novelist whose latest work has been selected by Hollywood for a film version. As the novel opens she has been hired as a consultant to the film company, but very quickly leaves that position in disgust, having to watch her novel be turned into a film she’d want nothing to do with.

The story that follows is mainly the story of the Lavette family, its history, its current activities, triumphs and trials, births, deaths and loves. The reader is treated to significant details of three generations of Lavettes, especially Barbara’s father and mother, her own life and her siblings, and then of Barbara’s son and some of his close cousins. The action ranges over about 15 or so years of live action, and forays in to the earlier history of the family as well.

I had a great deal of fun with the novel, however, I just couldn’t place it into the same realm of “literature” of many of the other novels I have read in the last 20 years since I started keeping notes and records of the books I read. I would find myself interested in this or that line of the plot, but instead of much depth of exploration, the novel seemed more to expand quickly into great drama in much the way that more typical soap opera stories do.

I’m not suggesting that’s any terrible thing. Again, the story is rather fun, lots of fascinating insights into the doings and thinking of the very rich, and a decent summary of key political and social events from the Vietnam War through the Six Days War in Israel. However, I found there to be simply too much happening and thus the treatments of the times and events seemed just much too light, breezy and superficial. I would have preferred a treatment of many fewer major events, but much more depth and analysis of how these fewer events would have played out in the Lavette family.

On the other hand, it is definitely a page turner, and the major character, Barbara, is a very complex and fascinating character. I think that at this time in my life with the reading interests I have developed in the past 20 years I just wasn’t the best reader for this generally interesting novel.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett