July 15, 2001
“All the Finest Girls” by Alexandra Styron
Reviewed by Mark Lindquist
New York Times Book Review
”Do you think it’s possible to be a great artist as the progeny of one?”
This question is posed by the father of the narrator of ”All the Finest Girls” – he is referring to his wife, an actress who is the daughter of a great painter — but it appears to be on the author’s mind as well. Alexandra Styron, a former actress and the daughter of William Styron, has written a first novel about finding one’s place in the world.
Addy Abraham is 32, single, childless and dissatisfied with her work restoring paintings for a Manhattan museum. Addy is somewhat estranged from her father (a well-known philosophy professor) and from her mother, who relegated a good deal of Addy’s upbringing to a Caribbean nanny named Louise.
Much of the novel takes place on the island of St. Clair, where Addy has traveled for Louise’s funeral. Addy was an odd, willful child and only Louise could handle her, and thus meeting Louise’s family becomes what Addy calls a ”bid for self-preservation,” an opportunity for her to see things clearly in her own life at last.
Though Styron never answers that question about a great artist’s progeny, she approaches it artfully — the writing here is frequently accomplished, and the insights wise.