... thoroughly charming ... A delightful comedy of manners involving the entire extended family ensues, spiced up by an unlikely pregnancy. Even when the proceedings become a touch tawdry, there’s a blessed absence of American puritanism in their presentation. Ms. Johnson, now 87 years old, is the least scandalized of authors and she deals with sex and other secrets with an amused c’est comme ça attitude learned from her adopted country of France.
The novel is an engaging confection. It is not, always, the highest version of its form—at times the effervescence of the plot is flattened by emphatic plot-point repetitions, and there are a few loose ends—but it is, at its best, a satisfying example of a time-honored genre ... Johnson is surely also observing that a certain entertaining type of comedy of manners—in which the elegant and amusingly entitled fuss about diminished incomes and inherited legacies or the lack thereof—is also perhaps nearing its end, at least for now, at least here. The frothiness is intrinsic to the novel’s pleasure—while Lorna obviously cares a good deal about how things might turn out, the stakes are, in global terms, fairly low—but this is also what will make it a treat for some, and not at all pleasurable for others ... it is a tender but decided indictment of the United States in the twenty-first century.
The opening scene is perfection. We meet the eponymous heroine of Diane Johnson’s latest novel, Lorna Mott Comes Home, as she rides in the back of a taxi, en route to the train station in Lyon. Lorna, an American woman 'of a certain age,' asks the driver to stop so she can observe the aftermath of a mudslide that has unearthed coffins, bursting them open and exposing corpses, bones and 'a huge, sticky hillock of treacherous clay' in the village of Pont-les-Puits, where she has lived with her French husband for 20 years ... a review of the latest entry to this 87-year-old author’s body of work arguably ought to have less to do with deconstructing the plot or gauging the likability of the characters than with heralding the arrival of another of her smart comedies of manners. Fans of Diane Johnson will not be disappointed. Those new to her work might best approach these pages through the lens of a social anthropologist who studies the lives of characters prone to problem solving by crisscrossing the Atlantic.