Just, Ward. Rodin's Debutante. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. March 2011. c.272p. ISBN
978-0-547-50419-3. $26. Fiction.
Born into wealth, irascible Tommy Ogden cares only about hunting. When his annoying wife tells him she intends to travel to Paris so Rodin can sculpt a bust of her (we are at the onset of World War I), he responds: "Go and be damned," and decides to turn their Illinois estate into a school for boys. Several years later, Lee Goodell grows up in a pleasant town on Lake Michigan where his father is a judge. In 1946, however, things change for good. A tramp is murdered and a girl sexually tortured, events that Lee’s father and other town leaders work to contain. Lee is sent to Ogden Hall, under headmaster Augustus Allprice. There, and later in Chicago’s south side, Lee will come to terms both with his vocation as a sculptor and his town’s past. VERDICT Just’s 17th novel (after Exiles in the Garden) is a somewhat uneven coming-of-age story with a youthful protagonist who is less compelling than the brutish founder of Ogden Hall or the school’s off-kilter headmaster. A far cry from tales of an artist’s tortured angst or of youthful erotic yearnings, this enjoyable book will appeal more to adults nostalgic for the 1950s than to today’s teenagers.