Spring And Fall
It’s 1962, with intellectual, cultural, and sexual revolutions in full swing on college campuses when Lawrence, a Harvard senior in art history, meets Hermia, a Radcliffe junior studying English. Their semester-long romance ends abruptly, with neither realizing the strength of their relationship and depth of feelings for each other until they have moved on to other partners. Lawrence and Hermia travel different paths as adults, only to unexpectedly find each other again forty years later on a Mediterranean cruise, a world away from the hallowed halls of Cambridge. Their reconnection is measured, even tentative, as both are aware of the passage of time and the perils of past relationships; both are divorced, they each have children with their own issues and baggage, and they are not the young idealists they were in their youth.
Chapters alternate between the past and present, and between Lawrence’s and Hermia’s lives, with all storylines eventually merging, aided by a bit of coincidence. Delbanco (Vagabonds, What Remains) effectively summons up the academic atmosphere of the undergraduate Ivy League experience as well as the life of the tenure-track academic, while allowing Lawrence some pivotal commercial experience and success as an architect. Hermia’s life as the well-to-do daughter of a famous, now-dead artist also seems fairly staid and protected, with reality encroaching only when those she loves disappoint her. The delight in this story comes from watching two characters growing enough as individuals to be able to make the leap into a late-in-life relationship, and discovering that one’s first great love never really diminishes but can instead provide a strong foundation for happiness.