As it happens, I have a history with this book. Long ago, when I was an undergraduate at Michigan State, I used to take fiction breaks from my studying in the library. One novel I read, twenty minutes at a time, was Senior Spring. I never quite forgot the book but didn’t expect to run across it again. When I finally got a copy, I was surprised to discover something that I had forgotten -- that the story is set in California. The title of the 1955 paperback edition (cover at left) is Kiss the Night Away.
Senior Spring by C. G. Lumbard. Simon and Schuster (1954), 243 pp.
Steve Burnett is starting his final semester at Berkeley. An uncomfortable architecture major, he believes that his courses are too theoretical and other-worldly and fears that his work is becoming shoddy and unimaginative. Life in the fraternity house, on the other hand, remains pleasant and familiar. His roommate, Chalmers Grant, class president and ladies’ man, is often a pain. But the other guys are mostly all right, especially Johnny Stryko, an academic wizard who admires Steve’s artistic talent. Unfortunately, Steve’s girlfriend is also pleasant and familiar. When he meets beautiful and adventurous Cassy Kane, emotions erupt that foretell a bumpy ride ahead.
This novel paints a convincing but limited portrait of undergraduate life some sixty years ago. Its look at fraternity life -- the parties and bull sessions and casual friendships -- has an air of authenticity. Steve, the narrator and protagonist, speaks from experience. He’s perhaps less career-oriented than college students today, but the attitudes he expresses toward classes and romance have probably not dated much over the years. Perhaps to insure the timelessness of the story, Lumbard focuses on fraternity men in a period when they were less representative than usual. Readers won’t learn much about returning veterans, who formed a conspicuous part of campus life in 1950 and had no interest in close male comradeship. All in all, this is an absorbing read that might well appeal to college students today.