Warning! Contains spoilers! The sequel to “The Graduate” starts in sparkling fashion when Elaine, now Ben Braddock’s wife, is accosted by a banker’s wife in a grocery store and asked censoriously why she and her husband took their boys out of school to homeschool them. When the harpy won’t leave her alone Elaine replies: “We took them out so they wouldn’t be bankers.” The rest of the novel doesn’t always live up to its wonderful start, but often it does. Unfortunately for the Braddocks, a nosy banker’s wife isn’t the only person annoyed at their homeschooling of their children. The Westchester County Unified School District in White Plains wants their boys to be back in school in 10 days, and won’t take no for an answer. Anyone who has dealt with dimwitted bureaucrats will identify with Ben Braddock’s frustrations as he tried to reason with Warren G. Harding Elementary School principal Ralph Claymore and his fellow thugs, pulling authority without any attempt to reason with the man they are bullying. This apparently hopeless situation is quickly resolved at the end of part one of this three-part novel. Ben brings his mother-in-law, Mrs. Robinson, back from southern California to seduce the randy Principal Claymore and tape incriminating evidence to get him to forget about bringing the Braddock boys back to school. The Mission Impossible complexity of this scheme, which is brought off without a hitch, is the weakest part of the novel. On the other hand, it is quite entertaining in itself, isn’t very different from the fodder one finds in TV sitcoms, and will probably film well if they ever do a sequel to “The Graduate” with the magic of CGI recreating Anne Bancroft in the role of Mrs. Robinson. Elaine believes that Ben could go to jail for blackmailing Principal Claymore. Ben claims that there is no problem as he is not asking for money. In this exchange, and almost everywhere in the book, one gets the feeling that Elaine really deserved a better husband. The remaining two parts of the book deal with the Braddocks' problems in getting rid of Mrs. Robinson who seems set on becoming a permanent guest. They bring in an odd hippie-dippie family with a mother who still breast-feeds her nine-year-old child to encourage Elaine’s mother to leave but that creates problems of its own. Elaine asks Ben: “[D]o you think there’s any chance you can keep your eyeballs in their sockets next time Goya is nursing her?”. When Ben tells her she is unbelievable she retorts: “No, I’m just not a triple-D.” Other reviewers have complained the ending of the novel is implausible, a homage to "The Graduate" or simply tossed off in a hurry. I didn't think so. It seemed to me it was consistent with Mrs. Robinson's character, and with the unpredictability of future events in general. My family spent a wonderful Christmas holiday in the White Plains region of New York State in 2013, so for me there was a particular enjoyment in reading a novel that was set there.
Jan 10, 2021