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08 October 2015

Susan Howatch: Sins of the Fathers

The Rich are still very different
I really enjoyed The Rich are Different about banking families in the 1920's and 1930's in the US and England who were driven by greed, cunning, ambition, revenge, love (inside and outside of marriage), need for security and hope for the lives of their many children. I wondered if Howatch could match the original in the sequel following the lives of some of the children, but sadly this is not so.

After many unscrupulous dealings, Cornelius Van Zale won the battle for his late uncle's banking empire. He is now the undisputed king of the castle over his contemporaries and his offspring and stepchildren. When his daughter Vicki who the apple of his eye tries to elope with a poor beach boy Cornelius goes into protective mode, even suggesting that his partner Sam, the same age as him, should marry her to prevent such a marriage. Sam is so browbeaten by Cornelius that he agrees.

In his banking world, Cornelius continues to encounter complicated rivalries and affairs that impact on the unfinished business when he took over the bank come back to haunt him. He suppresses his memory of his involvement in the brutal affairs of the past but is constantly reminded of them by Scott Sullivan, stepson of his sister Emily, who he had shared the upbringing after Scott's father died tragically in an auto accident which he had engineered to get rid of any threats to his position in the bank. While Scott is an important partner in the bank, he has a dark side which Cornelius never understands.

Howatch weaves a complex tale of intrigue, family problems, adultery, deceit, espionage,  adultery, murder, blackmail, impotence, alcoholism, chronic illness, perversion, revenge and split personalities. Unfortunately, I found this to be a very poor sequel to The Rich are Different with almost cardboard characters, and a mostly unbelievable plot.

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