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`Reader friendly' fiction

Love in the Middle Ages, by Helen Barolini. New York: William Morrow & Co. 259 pp. $17.95. No News is Good, by Julie Edelson. San Francisco: North Point Press. 243 pp. $16.95. A ``reader friendly'' book is easy to read; generally, the story line stands out clearly.

Helen Barolini's Love in the Middle Ages (not the Middle Ages but the years after 40) is a friendly book. It's a warm story about two middle-aged people (one has lost her husband, the other is divorced) who rediscover how difficult it is to break old habits, old concepts as they each ponder remarriage. Two tedious chapters slow down a very readable book.

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No News is Good grabs your attention with a crisp style and a bunch of offbeat characters drawn from the radical left of the mid-'60s. But the energy peaks about mid-book, and with accounts of the May Day march on Washington and the greasy life style of these folk, the novel seems to wander off looking for a place to end.

Julie Edelson's first novel recounts how Ruth Levine breaks away from a restrained approach to life and begins to define a role of her own. But the true life force in the novel, Laura Glassman, gets second billing. This is less friendly than the Barolini novel.

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