Oh, this lovely - a beautifully and loving crafted warm security blanket of a book!
The story opens on Christmas eve, in a harbour town in the west ofOh, this lovely - a beautifully and loving crafted warm security blanket of a book!
The story opens on Christmas eve, in a harbour town in the west of England, two centuries ago.
Polly was spending her first Christmas there with two maiden aunts, Dorcas and Constantia. She had lived with them since the death of her parents in an accident earlier in the year, and she was beginning to realise that her aunts' ideas about celebrating Christmas were rather different to hers. At her parents farmhouse home the door had been left unlocked day and night to offer hospitality to all: friends, neighbours, travellers, the needy ....
"But we always did it at home," said Polly.
"My dear," said Aunt Dorcas, "at home you had a man in the house."
"But we've got The Hat in the hall," said Polly.
"My dear," said Aunt Dorcas, "it is not such an adequate protection."
The aunts were eminently sensible; there hadn't been a man in the house since one of their brothers had married and the other had run away to sea. But Polly couldn't accept that. She believed that she would see three ships come sailing in, bringing three wise men to see them, and she believed that angels would visit them, because every Christmas she had heard their feathers brushing the panelling on the stairs.
The aunts locked the door and hid the key. It wasn't that they were unkind, they were just the opposite; they just wanted Polly to be safe and secure, and they'd had a lovely time creating the perfect Christmas stocking for her.
They would find that their niece had been right. They were visited by three wise men of a most unexpected kind, they brought three gifts that had the same symbolism as gold, frankincense and myrrh, and three ships did come sailing into the harbour on Christmas morning.
They couldn't have been happier - and neither could I - the ending was perfect!
It was a happy tears kind of ending ....
I'd love to say more, to re-tell the whole story, but I mustn't.
The story is beautifully written, it's very well thought out, it's full of lovely details, and it's told with warmth, understanding, and just a little bit of humour.
The characters - including a very amenable cat - are nicely differentiated and very well drawn, the historical setting is evoked so well, and the words of the carol that gives the story its title are threaded through.
You might say that the story is old-fashioned, and maybe it is.
And you might think that it sounds sentimental, but I'd say that it isn't. It's a story underpinned by real emotions and real faith.
It's a lovely story for Christmas. A very small book, written for children but very readable for grown-ups.
The cover drew me in first. The colour is at the perfect point between blue and grey and the drawing is lovely. Who is the man and what is he lookingThe cover drew me in first. The colour is at the perfect point between blue and grey and the drawing is lovely. Who is the man and what is he looking down at?
I hadn’t read anything by Robert Erdic before, but I was aware that he was a respected author, and so I picked up the book to find out a little more, The premise was intriguing, and so home it came.
In 1847, after the death of his fianceé, Charles Weightman is sent to Yorkshire to supervise the flooding of a valley.
It’s an element of history that I don’t recall finding in a novel before. Springs and wells that have supplied communities with water cannot cope with new demands and population growth, and so valleys are turned into reservoirs.
He expected to find unpopulated countryside, but instead he finds homes still occupied and people who are reluctantly having to leave the only homes they have ever known. And so, of course, Charles meets with suspicion, resentment and downright hostility.
Mary Latimer is a widow. She moved back to her home in the valley so that she could bring her sister home from the asylum, but mow she faces the prospect of losing her home and being forced to send her sister back to the asylum.
There is a mutual recognition between Mary and Charles. acknowlege each other as people who have borne losses, who are isolated, who are trying to do the right thing in difficult situations.
There is no relationship – this isn’t that sort of book – just two lives being swept away as the tide rises.
A great deal is unsaid, and many questions go unanswered, while the rising tide dominates everything. In unskilled hands that might be a problem, but here it somehow works. Indeed, it feels right.
The story is, inevitably, serious and, of course, there can be no happy ending. But it is both moving and gripping as it unravels in perfect, sparse prose, and all of the elements work together beautifully.
Definitely a book that will stay with me, and an author to investigate further, ...more
I remember picking up a paperback copy of ‘Tipping the Velvet’, Sarah Waters’ first novel, in a London bookshop, years ago. It wasn’t because I’d hearI remember picking up a paperback copy of ‘Tipping the Velvet’, Sarah Waters’ first novel, in a London bookshop, years ago. It wasn’t because I’d heard of the author or of the book, it was because the cover caught my eye and because I spotted a Virago apple on the spine.
Since then her star has risen and risen to such glorious heights; I had to wait and wait in a very long library queue – as long a queue as I have ever waited in – to read ‘The Paying Guests.’
I wish that I could say that I loved it, but I can’t quite say that.
Maybe my expectations were just a little too high.
Maybe I was the wrong reader. I’ve always believed that how we respond to books is heavily influenced by the books we’ve read before. I’ve read many books from this period; and ‘A Pin to See the Peepshow’ by F Tennyson Jesse, a book that Sarah Waters has acknowledged as a significant influence, is a particular favourite of mine ….
I found things to love, I found things to admire, but I also found things that I didn’t love and things that disappointed me.
The story began beautifully: on an afternoon in 1922, Mrs Wray and her grown-up daughter, Frances, were at home, on the outskirts of London, awaiting the arrival of their first paying guests. Mr Wray had died leaving little but debt, his two sons had been killed in the Great War, and so his wife and daughter had to manage alone. Frances had persuaded her other that, rather than sell up, she would take on the domestic duties that had been done by servants in the past and they would let part of the house. She could manage. They could manage. But now that the day had come Mrs Wray’s worries had returned and Frances was anxious about how it would all work.
The Barbers were a young married couple, and they unsettled the house. They did nothing wrong. But they were different, they were so much more modern, so much more relaxed in the way that they lived.
Sarah Waters captures the discomfort of having change in your home, of having to be ever aware of other people, of having to deal with things – small but significant things that you never had to deal with before – quite perfectly. And as she slowly builds up to the dramatic incident that will be the centrepiece of her story she reveals more about her characters; the picture becomes clearer, the psychology becomes clearer, and it all makes sense.
The details are so well chosen, and the story is so very well rooted in its era; that and the sheer quality of the writing made this part of the story, where very little happened but it was clear that something was going to happen, utterly compelling.
The characters were not likeable, but they were believable. I appreciated that there were no heroes and no villains, just real, fallible human beings.
That dramatic incident was inevitable, but when it came it was shocking. I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t.
That shifted the story, and that was where things started to go wrong.
The remainder of the book was concerned with the fallout from that incident, and though it was compelling, though it had significant things to say, about marriage, about justice, about change in the post-war world, it was compromised by the love story that Sarah Waters so clearly wanted to play out.
I could accept the blurring of right and wrong, though I didn’t like it; there were other thingsthat I found much more difficult to accept.
I felt that Sarah Waters compromised her characters – in some cases she made them blind – to reach the ending she wanted. I couldn’t help feeling that it was the wrong ending, though I give her great credit for not making it a definitive ending; there were clearly things that had to be faced in the future.
(I wish I could explain a little more, I wish I could ask certain questions, but I think that it’s far too early in this book’s life to write about specific plot points.)
The emotions rang true, so much rang true, but those things that didn’t ring true, pulled me right out of the story.
That’s why, though I found much to appreciate in this book, my lasting feeling is one of disappointment. ...more
I was looking up another Faber Finds author when the name ‘Frances Vernon’ and some interesting book titles caughtThis was such a fortunate discovery.
I was looking up another Faber Finds author when the name ‘Frances Vernon’ and some interesting book titles caught my eye. I read that she won the Author’s Club Award for Best First Novel in 1982, with a book that she wrote when she was just seventeen years-old; and that she wrote five more novels that were very well received before her tragically early death, a little less than ten years later.
Now that I have read that first novel, ‘Privileged Children’, I am captivated. To make such a debut, at such a young age, was extraordinary, and I am quite sure that had she lived, had she continued to write, her new books would be anticipated as we anticipate new works by writers like Hilary Mantel, Margaret Atwood, Sarah Waters ….
I’m maybe being a little reckless, saying that after reading just one book, a book that isn’t a mature work, a book that is a little gauche, but there is something about it, something I can’t quite explain, that says to me that Frances Vernon was a very special author.
The story opens in London, in Bloomsbury, in the spring of 1909. A child was struggling home with two heavy baskets of shopping. It was clear that her family had fallen on hard times, that the child knew that she had to play her part in the household. And then more became clear. Alice’s mother was a high class prostitute; the household was supported by wealthy men who supported Diana with the understanding that she would be available and she would be discreet.
Diana had seen no other way to keep her home and her child when her husband died, and she hoped that what she did would give Alice the chance of a better life. She wanted Alice to know that women could be strong and capable; the wanted Alice to be able to achieve her ambition, to become an artist.
That was a very fine start to a novel; it was beautifully written, it was perfectly paced; and I wanted to say that this is wrong but I had to concede that Diana was doing the best that she could, and that she was doing it for the best of reasons.
It was a very clever piece of writing.
Diana died of tuberculosis when Alice was just fourteen years-old, and Alice was sent to live in the country with a distant relation. She hated it, she wanted to get back to her mother’s bohemian circle of friends in London, and she succeeded. Because Alice hadn’t learned more from Diana than she had been taught. She had learned to manipulate people, and she had learned to use her sexuality to her own advantage.
Alice established herself in a bohemian household, she took up painting and she sailed through life, quite oblivious to conventions like fidelity in marriage and involvement in raising her children. She was a little like Margery Sharp’s Martha, though she was a very different woman in a very different age. I couldn’t say that I liked her, but I was fascinated by her, and I have to acknowledge that she was consistent, that she lived by her own rules.
She taught her children to live the same way.
Frances Vernon caught the age and its concerns, and the artists and writers in Alice’s household, quite beautifully.
The pace is brisk and the dialogue is straightforward – what must have been long debates summarised in a few exchanges, but it works. There’s a wonderful clarity and colour in the writing, and the storytelling is lovely.
The introduction of a schoolgirl, who has run away from boarding school to become an artist, who Alice takes in, gives structure and direction to the latter part of the story, illuminating characters and relationships, and eventually bringing the story full circle.
That’s more clever writing, and it’s so very engaging.
I believed in all of the people; I believed in everything that happened.
The theme, that years many pass, that the world many change, but that people will always be the product of their past and their upbringing was woven in very well.
Frances Vernon would have sat very well in the Virago Modern Classics list, and I suspect that she might have read a few of those green books when she was very young and they were very new. She was born just three months before me, we would have been in the same school year, and I am quite sure that we would have read and many of the same books.
I was sorry when this book was over; but now I have five more novels by Frances Vernon to find. ...more
The Cornish Library Service has lost its green Virago copy of The Heir. I was so disappointed when that news arrived by email. I had felt so virtuousThe Cornish Library Service has lost its green Virago copy of The Heir. I was so disappointed when that news arrived by email. I had felt so virtuous when I placed my order; I was controlling my book shopping and supporting the library!
I was offered a 1973 edition instead. I was less than thrilled, but I accepted, telling myself that reading the words was much more important than holding a particular edition.
When the book arrived I was delighted with it. Yes it was a 1970s edition, but it was a facsimile of the first edition, from 1922. The author’s name was shown not as Vita, but as Victoria Sackville-West, and though I had lost that accompanying novella, Seducers in Ecuador, that would have come with the Virago edition I had gained a quartet of short stories that I knew nothing about.
I had found a publisher. This facsimile edition came from Cederic Chivers Ltd of Bath – book-binders, book restorers and paper conservators – at the request of the London & Home Counties Branch of the Library Association.
“This book has been out of print for a number of years, and in response to continued demand we are delighted to be able to reprint such a fine piece of writing.”
It was a lovely reminder that rediscovering old books is nothing new, it’s been going on for years and years. And long may it continue. After all even Jane Austen fell out of print for a little while …
The list of titles published in the same series was a delight. I saw so many familiar names, from Vera Brittain to Barbara Comyns to Robert Graves to Kate O’Brien to Winifred Watson … and, would you believe, Dorothy Whipple sitting next to Baron Von Richthofen …
But it was The Heir that I wanted to read, and it was every bit as wonderful as I had been led to believe.
It began with the end of an era.
“Miss Chase lay in her immense red silk four-poster that reached as high as the ceiling. Her face was covered by a sheet, but she had a high, aristocratic nose, it raised the sheet into a ridge, ending in a point. Her hands could also be distinguished beneath the sheet, folded across her chest like the hands of an effigy; and her feet, tight together like the feet of an effigy raised the sheet into two further points at the bottom of the bed. She was eighty-four years old, and she had been dead for twenty-four hours.”
Miss Chase has no close family and so her estate came to a distant cousin. A solicitor from Wolverhampton. He had never met his cousin, and he had never visited Blackboys, her Elizabethan manor house, set in the Kent countryside, that became his.
It wouldn’t be his for long if the solicitors has their way. They told him that the estate was heavily mortgaged, that it would never pay his way, that the only thing to so was sell up, and then maybe he could go home a little wealthier than he had been when he left it. They had all the facts and figures at their disposal, everything that they said made perfect sense, but Chase rather resented it.
“The house lay in the hollow at the bottom of a ridge of wooded hills that sheltered it from the north, but the garden was upon the slope of the hill, in design quite simple; a central walk divided the square garden into halves, eased into very flat, shallow steps, and outlined by a low stone coping. A wall surrounded the whole garden. To reach the garden from the house, you crossed a little footbridge over the moat, at the bottom of the central walk. This simplicity, so obvious, yet, like the house, so satisfying, could not possibly have been otherwise ordered; it was married to the lie of the land. It flattered Chase with the delectable suggestion that he, a simple fellow, could have conceived and carried out the scheme as well as had the architect.”
Blackboys was home, and its faded grandeur gave him beauty, comfort, and a place in the world, a point in history. He came to realise that slowly, as he walked through galleries full of family portraits, as he looked across beautiful gardens towards rolling hills, as he sat, peacefully in his wood-pannelled library.
It was lovely to watch, to understand, to know that the house belonged to the land and that Chase belonged to the house.
I could see it, perfectly realised, because all of the right details were there. The house, the grounds, the countryside, lived and breathed.
The Heir is subtitled ‘A Love Story’ and I watched that love story grow, between Chase and the home that he inherited
It was a joy to read all of this, in prose that was both rich and elegant, and to have characters and their lives illuminated so gently and so clearly.
I couldn’t see how the story could be resolved. I knew that Chase couldn’t go back to the life he had before, but I couldn’t see a way for him to hold on to Blackboys.
In the end there was a resolution, a resolution that was right, real and natural.
I really didn’t want to let this one go, but I had to. Luckily, I had those short stories to fall back on.
The Christmas Party was a little gem. Almost the opposite of The Heir, it told the darkly, twisted story of a woman who had been exiled from her home, who had built an unconventional life on her own, and who had finally invited her estranged family to stay.
Her Son was a perceptive and heart-breaking story of a mother who learned that her son had no time for the inheritance, the history that she thought so precious.
Patience and The Parrot were were shorter, but they had their own, quite distinctive, charms.
All four stories were beautifully and perceptively written, revealing different facets of their author.
But, lovely though they were, they couldn’t live up to The Heir. That was the story that captured me, heart and soul … and I think that maybe I will have to order a green Virago copy to keep … ...more
'None-Go-By' was to be home to a couple, both writers, looking for the peace and quiet that was missing on their busy London lives. They didn't find i'None-Go-By' was to be home to a couple, both writers, looking for the peace and quiet that was missing on their busy London lives. They didn't find it, but they found new interests, they made new friends, and it made a lovely story. And this story is very close to a real story: the story of Mr and Mrs Alfred Sedgwick themselves.
I was aware of Mrs Sidgwick but I didn't know that she had any links with Cornwall until a number of her books, smartly re-bound, appeared among the Cornish fiction in the Morrab library. They all looked promising, and but I had to pick this one up first. I liked the title, and I knew when I read the opening that I had to carry on.
"Two elderly people with moderate means and no incumbrances ought to be able to lead a quiet life. For a long time, Thomas and I had said this to each other, but we had not done it. We have no children of our own, but we have relatives and friends, and somehow or other we get mixed up in their affairs. We do not wish to be because by nature we are curmudgeons, but it happens."
I found myself listening to Mary Clarendon, as she spoke about what happened when she and her husband moved from London to a Cornish cottage they named 'None-Go-By', and it's lovely because her voice is so real, open and honest; and because she catches people and their relationships so beautifully.
I had to smile at gentle marital bickering between Thomas and Mary; for all that each tried to have the last word it was clear that they were two very different people who loved each other and accepted each others little foibles. He was an impractical, absent minded philosopher who from time to time set out on a grand scheme; she was a practical woman who wanted to work steadily to get her house and her garden exactly the way she wanted them. It's a real marriage, captured absolutely perfectly.
It was lovely watching their ups and downs as they settled into their new home and a new lifestyle.
Place names were changed, but I soon worked out that 'None-Go-By' must be in the Lamorna valley.
"We went for a walk across the wild land at the back of the house and came in time to a stream and a windmill. The catkins were out on the hazels, the gorse was blazing on the moors and in the hedges, the light airs sent you its essence hot and sweet in the sun; there were primroses on the banks and the blackthorn. Yellow hammers flew here and there about the hedges, asking for their little bit of bread and no cheese. The rooks were busy in the taller trees near the stream, and the larks, risen high into the heavens, were singing all the cares of the world away."
This was Cecily Sedgwick's home - 'Vellensagia' - in the Lamorna valley;
Of course the locals came to see their new neighbours. There was Mrs Lomax, who fancied herself as the leader of village society; and then there was Mrs Almond, the vicar's wife who was lovely and had the sunniest of natures.
It was inevitable that young family members, who had been frequent visitors in London, would invite themselves to stay. There were high jinks with a young nephew who came to convalesce after illness. There was diplomacy when a niece sought sanctuary after her first marital spat. And there was romance in the air when another niece came to stay.
And there was a community of artists in the Lamorna valley; Mary made friends there too.
All of this is handled with a light but sure touch, and there is much to raise a smile.
Bob, the fox terrier, eating the kidneys intended for the first supper at None-Go-By, when a lack of table space caused a dish to be placed on the floor.
Young nephew Sam discovered by guests stark naked in the kitchen - because he didn't want to get his clothes wet as he washed the dishes.
A basket of ducklings inadvertently let loose in the vicarage; rounding them all up again caused havoc.
The drawing of battle lines over the controversial issue of - rhododendrons!
And somehow, along the way, 'None-Go-By' became the centre of local society, and the Clarendons were busier than they had ever been.
'No, we are never dull. There are shipwrecks and floods and stranded whales and suicides, murders, embezzlements, births, deaths, divorces, love affairs, quarrels, weddings, shops, concerts, cinema, bridge parties, gardens, clothes, housekeeping, servant troubles, dances ....'
They loved it, and I loved meeting them.
I'm so glad that the Sidgwicks stayed in Cornwall, that they celebrated their Golden Wedding here, and that there are more books inspired by the years they spent here for me to read....more
I've had my eye on Hugh Walpole - one of those traditional storytellers who plied their trade in the early part of the last century, and who fell outI've had my eye on Hugh Walpole - one of those traditional storytellers who plied their trade in the early part of the last century, and who fell out of fashion when modernism came to the fore - for quite some time now. But I've dithered over which of his many books I should read. Finally though I realised that 'Mr Perrin and Mr Trail' had a lot to recommend it:
- Walpole's first success (and only his third novel)
- A Cornish setting
- A school setting
- A story drawn from experience, of which the author was said to be particularly proud.
And the Cornish library service had a copy!
It proved to be a little gem.
The story is set at Moffatt's, a small public school, on the Cornish coast. It is a second-rate school, staffed by men who are only there because they have nowhere else to go, the atmosphere made poisonous by a manipulative, controlling headmaster.
Mr Perrin - known to the boys as 'Pompous' - is one of those men. He has been there for twenty years; he is middle-aged and shabby; and his dreams of rising to the top of his profession have nearly all gone. Just one dream remains: Mr Perrin dreams of winning the heart of the lovely Miss Desart, who often came to stay with a married colleague and his wife. He is an unhappy dream, but that one dream keeps him going.
But Mr Traill will shatter that dream.
Mr Traill is a new master, in his first teaching post. He knows that it is first step on the ladder. He is young, handsome, athletic, charming, and the boys love him. But he is oblivious to the tension in the air, and he is incredulous when one of his colleagues warns him to get out as soon as he can.
He meets, and falls in love with, Miss Desart. And Mr Perrin's heart is broken.
Tension grows between the two masters; two men who have such different outlooks on life.
It all comes to a head when Mr Traill, on his way out on a rainy day, grabs the first umbrella that comes to hand from the pot by the door. And loses it. It was Mr Perrin's umbrella. Mr Traill cannot understand why Mr Perrin is so upset about such a small thing. Mr Perrin cannot understand how Mr Traill can be so careless of another man's possessions, another man's feelings.
There is a physical fight.
The repercussions are felt throughout the school, as the staff and their families join different camps.
And then Mr Traill - still oblivious - announces his engagement to Miss Desart.
Something in Mr Perrin's head snaps. he vows that he will have his vengeance.
Mr Perrin knows that the voice in his head, the voice that suggests wicked plans and schemes, is wrong. He is frightened, he tries not to listen, but he fails.
There is a dramatic finale, on a cliff top, on the last day of the summer term.
The story held me from start to finish.
It was a wonderful piece of storytelling, simply but clearly told. The characters - the masters, the domestic staff, the wives - were very well drawn and very well delineated. They were different people with different characters and different attitudes, but they were all stuck in the same situation.
The settings, the details, are all well done.
And though the story was set in a school, in Cornwall, in Edwardian England, you could transport is to so many different times and laces.
Consider Mr Perrin, Mr Traill and the umbrella; and then consider a booklover, a precious book, and a borrower who is careless with it and doesn't understand why the booklover is so upset ....
The different characters, the different attitudes of the two, very different men is so very well drawn, so very well defined, and that is what makes the story sing.
There is right and wrong, but it's impossible to say that one man is right and the other is wrong. One is young and foolish; one is old and set in his ways.
I should mention that there is another book by Hugh Walpole with a very similar title - 'The Gods and Mr Perrin.' It's actually the same story with a different ending; rewritten for the American market. I'd say go for the original ending - it couldn't be bettered.
I'm sorry that High Walpole had an unhappy year as a teacher - at Epsom College - but that experience gave him a very fine novel to send out into the world.
On a beautiful spring day, a young woman – Julia – wearing a white dress andOh, this really should be a play!
Picture, if you will, the opening scene.
On a beautiful spring day, a young woman – Julia – wearing a white dress and a large straw hat with a sapphire-blue ribbon that exactly matches her eyes, is sitting on a bench in Kensington Gardens. She is waiting for her fiancé to arrive. A handsome young man - Stephen - sits down beside her. He is a stranger but he charms her, explaining that he is there to ward off unwanted attention, and that he will absent himself the moment. And he does just that ….
Julia was waiting to make an important announcement to her fiancé - Morland. She had decided to leave home, to find lodgings, and to find a job to support herself, so that she wouldn’t be dependent on the allowance her father gave her. They weren’t close, they never had been, and though Julia’s young stepmother was bright and friendly Julia knew that a step-daughter had never been part of her plans. And so Julia’s plans made perfect sense; a little independence before matrimony, when Morland secured an essential promotion.
Morland was not impressed, but Julia held her ground. And – as you would expect in a D E Stevenson novel – things fell into place very nicely. Julia secured a lovely attic room in a boarding house run by the wonderful Miss May Martineau, a theatrical lady who usually let her rooms to theatrical folk. Miss Martineau took a shine to Julia, even finding her a job in a hat shop, where the proprietor, Madame Claire, took a shine to Julia – who had a natural aptitude for the job and who could speak French with her – too.
Such wonderful settings and characters!
Life wasn’t perfect – Julia had to deal with jealous co-workers, and with Moreland who was still not at all pleased with her – but she coped. With the help of Stephen, her new best friend ….
That was the end of the first act. The story was poised beautifully.
I would love to see it as a film, but it would also make a lovely film. A musical even – something like ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ ….
It had been delightful to meet such a fine cast of characters, to have the story play out just as I would have wanted, and to have it written with such a sure touch; I loved the mix of humour, romance and intrigue.
The intrigue revolves around a real blue sapphire, but I don’t want to say too much ….
But the start of the second act Julia left all of that behind.
A letter arrived, from her father’s estranged brother in Scotland, asking Julia visit him before he dies. Moreland told her not to go, she knew that her father wouldn’t approve, but she went anyway. She knew that it was the right thing to do.
Julia fell in love with Scotland, and with her uncle. He became the father she had never had, and she became the daughter he had never had. But, though his spirits were high, he was growing weaker. He was dying ….
The second act was nearly as lovely as the first, but I had some reservations.
It took time to adjust to the change in pace; I missed the buzz of London and, though the new characters I met were lovely, I did miss the others that were left behind.
And the contrivances became more noticeable – the speed with which Julia became part of the family and the community, the way she was able to extend her stay without having to worry about her job or her room, and one or two other things I won’t mention because I really am trying not to give away too much of the plot. I expect contrivances in D E Stevenson novels, but these were a little too much, and some of the pieces fell into place rather too quickly.
To her credit though the author didn’t try to tie up all of the loose ends. Indeed she left so many dangling that I wondered if she had planned a sequel or simply lost interest. I know Miss Martineau makes an appearance in ‘The House on the Cliff’ but that’s all I know ….
But I did get the ending I wanted – the ending that I could have predicted a long time before it happened.
Every time I read one of D E Stevenson’s books I think that she was my mother would call a ‘people person.’ That she loved people and she loved writing about them.
That makes her books so very readable.
I am so pleased that I read this one, and that I saw Julia find her own particular place in the world. ...more
When Claire wrote ‘The English Air by D.E. Stevenson might just be my new favourite DES book’ a year or so ago I sat up and took notice, because I kneWhen Claire wrote ‘The English Air by D.E. Stevenson might just be my new favourite DES book’ a year or so ago I sat up and took notice, because I knew that she loved the author and that she had read a great many of her books.
The book was out of print, used copies were horrible expensive, but I was delighted when a search of my library catalogue found a copy. And then I was both sad and cross when I clicked on it to find ‘no copy available’ – experience has taught me that’s library-speak for ‘we’ve lost it.’
Fortunately Open Library came to my rescue and now I have read the book. I’m not quite sure its my favourite of her books – I have a weakness for her more sentimental stories – but I can say that it is a book with wonderful qualities, that it is a book without – or at least with less of – her weaknesses, and that it is a book I would love to add to my shelves if only some kind publisher would bring it back into print.
1404706Not long before the outbreak of World War I a bright young Englishwoman met a quiet young German. He took her home as his bride, they had a son, and they named him Franz. Franz’s mother lost touch with her friends and family in England during the was and she died not long after it ended, leaving Franz to be brought up by his strict German father, not knowing his English family at all.
The story begins in the summer of 1938. Franz has just turned twenty years old, he is a quiet and serious-minded young man, and he has invited himself to stay with his English relations. He wants to improve his English, and to learn more about the country and his culture.
Franz’s relationship with his cousins, and the lessons he learns about the English, are drawn quite beautifully. He was baffled at first by English irony and understatement, and he had no idea what to take seriously and what to take as a joke. But he was quick to learn, and he came to appreciate the strong bonds and the sense of community that underpinned so many seemingly casual ways.
This part of the story was lovely to read. Of course families and village communities are one of the authors greatest strengths, but what I appreciated here was that she told her story through characters without the faintest hint of a stereotype.
Wynne was the same age as Franz, and she was a genuinely nice, warm, bright girl; a true English rose. She drew Franz into her circle of friends without a moment’s hesitation, and the friendship between them grew into love. It was a relationship that might echo that of Franz’s parents.
Sophie was Wynne’s mother; a widow who was a wonderful mixture of scattiness and practicality. She and Franz’s mother had been close; she was pleased to see that her son had grown up so well, and she appreciated talking with him and sharing memories as much as he appreciated hearing about his mother and being drawn into her family.
And Dane was Franz’s uncle. He had concerns – he worked in military intelligence and he knew that Franz’s father had risen high in the Nazi party – but he was prepared to watch and wait. Because he liked the young man, who was respectful, who was interested, who was always prepared to listen and think.
Franz never lost his love for his German homeland,but in time he began to question some of the policies that the leader he respected was putting in place. The Munich agreement came to him as a profound relief, allowing him to continue to love both his countries; but when it was broken he was devastated.
He was relieved that he had taken Dane’s advice to wait before acting on his feelings for Wynne.
He knew that he had to act, and act he did.
The story played out beautifully, moving between Franz and his English family. It grew naturally from the characters I had come to like and to care about; it caught the times, the early days of the war, perfectly; and though it wasn’t entirely predictable it was entirely right. Even better – maybe because ‘The English Air’ was written and published while was still raging – the ending was uncontrived and natural. And that’s not always the case with D E Stevenson’s novel ….
I was a little disappointed that Wynne wasn’t a stronger presence in the story, but having Franz in the foreground was wonderful. He really was such an interesting character, and it was lovely to watch him learn and grow as he faced challenges big and small. That he, his situation, his divided loyalties were set out with such empathy and understanding are what make this story so special.
And the lightness of touch and the perfectly wrought English backdrop make it so very readable … ...more
It's three years ago now that I picked up Love in the Sun in the library. I didn't know who Leo Walmsley was then; I looked at the book because it wasIt's three years ago now that I picked up Love in the Sun in the library. I didn't know who Leo Walmsley was then; I looked at the book because it was on the Cornish shelf, because my mother used to have friends called Walmsley, and I wondered if there was a connection. There wasn't but I thought the cover was lovely and when I looked inside I found the warmest introduction written by Daphne Du Maurier, a sometime friend and neighbour of the author. When I started reading I was smitten too.
I went on to read the book that had been sitting next to 'Love in the Sun' - Paradise Creek was a companion piece, also set in Cornwall, written some years later. And then I read the two books that filled in the story that came between those two books: The Golden Waterwheel and The Happy Ending.
What I should explain is that these books are fiction, but they are very close to the facts of the authors life. That they are all now in print, courtesty of the Walmsley Society. And that I continues to be smitten.
I wasn't sure where to go after that lovely quartet of novels. I had an earlier volume of short stories. I had a later novel. But when I learned that the third of an earlier trilogy, was soon to be reissued I had my answer.
I ordered 'Three Fevers' - the first book of the Bramblewick trilogy - from the library.
There's a quote on the back of the book that says exactly what needs to be said:
"In opening Mr Walmsley's book, readers have fallen into the hands of a perfect yarn-spinner. They are in the position of the wedding guests and the Ancient Mariner; so long as he goes on they have to listen."
But I will elaborate just a little.
This is another story drawn from life, drawn from memories of the 1920s, when he worked with one of the two families fishing from a village in the north of England that he calls Bramblewick. The real village was Robin Hood's Bay, and there are just enough details to bring it to life.
The two fishing families are the Fosdycks, whose roots are in the area and the Lunns who are relative newcomers.
There are dramatic events - shooting lobster pots in a wild sea, rescuing a collier in danger of hitting the rocks - but this is a book that captures fishermen's lives as they were lived, at home and at sea.
I never doubted that the author was there, but he stayed in the shadows. His later books were his own story; this book places others at the centre of the story.
I learned recently that Leo Walmsley's father, Ulric, studied art in Newlyn under Stanhope Forbes, and that pointed me to the best way that I could explain why this book is so readable: Leo Walmsley captured his fishing community in words every bit as well and Stanhope Forbes and his contemporaries captured the fishing community in Newlyn.
I read The Thirteenth Tale such a long time ago, back when it was a brand new book. I loved it, I read it quickly, and when I had to take it back to tI read The Thirteenth Tale such a long time ago, back when it was a brand new book. I loved it, I read it quickly, and when I had to take it back to the library I bought a copy to keep. I had to, and I sat it on a shelf to wait for the particular someday when it would be the right time to read it again to come along.
It was still there when a BBC film came along towards the end of last year. I liked it, I thought that it was as good as it could be given the constrained running time, but it was just pulled fragments out of my memory, and I remembered that there was so much more.
And so it seemed that someday had come.
But I didn’t read, I listened instead, to a wonderful reading by Jenny Agutter. That made perfect sense, for a book that is about the magic of stories, storytelling, stories within stories, stories about stories ….. and it pulled so many more memories out of that particular corner of my mind where books live.
“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”
‘The Thirteeneth Tale’ is a book that draws upon a wealth of others to make a richly embroidered story of its own.
Take: •A large part of ‘Jane Eyre’ •A ghostly echo of ‘The Turn of the Screw’ •A solution of ‘The Lord of the Flies’ •A dash of ‘Wuthering Heights’ •A dusting of ‘If on a Winters Night a Traveller’ •More than a hint of ‘The Secret Garden’
…. and you are on the way to understanding.
‘The Thirteenth Tale’ isn’t the perfect book. It’s a little uneven, its a little too implausible, and it is a little too full of influences for there to be much space left for anything truly original. But I loved it anyway.
After all, you don’t love people because they are perfect, but because they are perfect for you and what you are. You love them for what they are, because you recognise something in them, and simply because you do ….
And so it was for me and this book; I loved it for its style, for its ideas, for its influences, and, most of all, I loved it for its wonderful understanding of the importance of books and stories.
The story began with Margaret Lea, who worked in her father’s antiquarian bookshop and aspired to writing literary biography, receiving a hand-written letter from an England’s most famous novelist. She was dying, and she wanted Margaret to write her biography.
Vida Winter had always evaded questions about her past, by spinning a different story every time she was asked, and she had succeeded in keeping the secrets of her early life hidden. Margaret wondered why she wanted to talk, whether she would tell her the truth, and why she had chosen her when she could have had anyone she wanted.
She had never read any of Vida Winter’s books, but when she picked up her father’s rare copy of ‘Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation’ she was captivated. And she was curious. Why were there only twelve stories? Why were the final pages of the book blank? And where was the thirteenth tale?
Miss Winter told Margaret the thirteenth tale.
It was a story of a troubled family with dark secrets, of a crumbling manor house in the middle of an declining estate, of children growing up wild, and of the dreadful consequences of all of that.
It was a wonderful gothic tale, wonderfully imagined, beautifully described, and quite gloriously told.
Margaret was fascinated, and so was I. It was a wrench every time I was pulled out of that story and back into the room where the story was being told.
But the two contrasting narratives worked together very well, and letters and diaries added more layers to the story
Margaret questioned the truth of the story she was told. She searched for proof, and in doing so she had to come to terms with her own past, and tell her own story.
“Everybody has a story. It’s like families. You might not know who they are, might have lost them, but they exist all the same. You might drift apart or you might turn your back on them, but you can’t say you haven’t got them. Same goes for stories."
I was rather less taken with Margaret’s story than I was with Miss Winter’s, but I understood that it had to play out as it did.
I loved the themes that were threaded through the two stories – identity, loss, adoption, reconciliation – and most of all I loved the bookishness, and the understanding the importance of stories that underpinned everything.
I have no more words, just two more quotations to cherish:
“All morning I struggled with the sensation of stray wisps of one world seeping through the cracks of another. Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes — characters even — caught in the fibres of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you.”
“My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with the truth itself. What succor, what consolation is there in the truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? When the lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with its long fingernails? No. When fear and cold make a statue of you in your bed, don’t expect hard-boned and fleshless truth to come running to your aid. What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie.” ...more
This is one woman’s testimony; her own compelling account of what happpened to her.
You might call it a domestic thriller ….
Hannah had been working inThis is one woman’s testimony; her own compelling account of what happpened to her.
You might call it a domestic thriller ….
Hannah had been working in New York for some years, she was professionally successful and happily single, where mutual friends introduced her to a fellow Briton. His name was Mark, and he was the owner of a highly successful and rapidly growing business. They clicked, their relationship blossomed, and they were married within a matter of months.
It wasn’t long after that that they moved to London, because Mark’s business needed him to be there. They lived in his – their – beautiful townhouse and they were very happy. Hannah’s only concern was that she hadn’t landed a new job, but she was confident that she would, and that then life would be perfect.
The story start with Hannah driving to Heathrow, to met Mark, who has been away on a business trip. But his flight arrives and there is no sign of him. He hasn’t sent word and he doesn’t answer his phone.
A message does come later: that something came up so that he had to stay on a while longer, that he left his mobile phone in a cab ….
Hannah is irked that he didn’t make the effort to contact her sooner, but she isn’t really worried. Until she learns that Mark’s employees think he is somewhere else entirely. Until she finds money missing from her savings account. Until Mark’s secretary lets slip that a woman she doesn’t know has been calling Mark, and that he always closed his office door when he took her calls.
There’s nothing that can’t be explained. Hannah loves her husband and she knows that he loves her. She trusts him, but she is worried that something is wrong. She thought it could be something in his past, because he would never talk abut them, let alone introduce her to them. And so she tried to find out more. But every answer she found opened up more questions ….
I shouldn’t say too much about the plot. It’s clever, it builds steadily, and it has some wonderfully unexpected twists and turns. This wasn’t the story I expected when I started reading.
Crucially, I liked Hannah, saw things as she did, and wanted answers just as much as she did. There were times when I questioned her actions, when I thought that she was acting recklessly, but I did understand why she did what she did.
The fact that she had returned to London after years away, that she hadn’t found a job, that she had only really socialised with her husband’s circle, meant that she had only her family to turn to, and that worked well for the story. Because she knew that her brother doubted her judgement when it came to men, and sharing what she knew with him would only confirm what he already thought. And because she knew that her mother’s distrust of her father – which proved to be unwarranted – had been the downfall of their marriage. Hannah didn’t want to be like her mother; she wanted to learn from her mistakes. That was a nice touch.
The pages turned very quickly.
The ending was a little over-the-top, but I couldn’t say that it was wrong.
But I almost let go of the story quite early on. Lucie Whitehouse can write well, but there were times when more subtlety would have been welcome – particularly when it came to references to the lifestyle of the newly-weds, and the accoutrements that success had brought them..
It was curiosity, and concern for Hannah, that kept me hanging on for what would grow into a gripping entertainment. ...more
I had always thought of Margaret Irwin as a writer of historical fiction, but when I spotted this book I realised that it was a little different, andI had always thought of Margaret Irwin as a writer of historical fiction, but when I spotted this book I realised that it was a little different, and I was to discover that she had spun a very different, slightly magical, slightly ghostly, story around a story set back in history.
‘Still She Wished for Company was published in 1924, and it moves between that era and the 1770s, and between two lovely heroines.
Jan Challard was a modern – but not too modern – young woman who lived and worked in 1920s. She liked her life, but she was beginning to find her office job, and the eligible young man who was courting her, just a little bit dull.
A century and a half earlier, Juliana Clare, the youngest daughter of an aristocratic Berkshire family, was finding life a little dull too. She tried to fill the long hours, busying herself in the house and the garden, writing in her journal, but she longed for something to happen, and she knew that something wasn’t marriage to one of the eligible young men that her mother thought were so suitable.
Two charming young ladies, quite alike, and certainly both rather inclined to daydream .....
Life does change for Juliana when her father dies and her eldest brother, Lucian, returned from a long sojourn abroad, to take his father’s title, his father’s estate, and her father’s position as head of the family.
Lucian was wicked, he was dissipated, and his father thrown him our and to barred him from the house and from contact with his family, and denounce him from his deathbed. In exile Lucian had reached out for everything life had to offer, and it had left him jaded and bored. His family didn’t want him back but Julia, who barely remembered him was curious to meet and talk to her mysterious brother.
She confided in him that she had seen ghosts, among them a strangely dressed young woman, maybe a girl dressed up as a boy.
That was Jan, who had visited the grand old country house when she was on holiday. Jan had seen Juliana too, and thought that she must be a ghost. Though she looked too content, too alive, to be a ghost.
Lucian recognised Juliana’s description of Jane; he knew that she was the intriguing woman she had seen, maybe in a dream, maybe in an altered state, maybe though some supernatural power. He realises that Juliana might be offering his only chance of seeing her again. And he is desperate to seize that chance …..
That’s as much as I should say about the story – except that what remains is fascinating, unexpected, and exactly right.
This is a very small book, and it simply tells the story of its twin heroines, without elaborating, without backstories, and without the stories of others.
Nearly all of the story belongs to Juliana, and it was so very effective. Margaret Irwin so clearly knew and loved the 18th century, and she pulled out just the right details, had just the right lightness of touch, to bring Julian and her world to life, and to make them intriguing.
Jan was very much a supporting player and, though she did nothing that was really wrong, I sensed that Margaret Irwin was less confident writing about her own age, and that the earlier era was her natural home. The 1770s are not my favourite period, but she made me feel at home there and made me understand what it was that she loved.
She handles her unusual story – the drama, the mystery, and the romance – beautifully, raising the intensity and then bringing her story to a quiet, and beautifully judged, conclusion.
It has a certain simplicity – and I’ve noticed that it has been published as a Peacock book, for young adults – but it has more than enough about it to appeal to a rather more grown-up reader. The kind of reader who likes history, romance, and a dash of something mystical.
The 17th century story on its own would have been lovely, but the magical, ghostly, wrapping turned this book into something very special.
And now, I think, I’m going to have to find a copy of my own, to replace the book I have to give back to the library ….. ...more
It was lovely to find a contemporary crime author who is simply a fine writer at the end of last year, and it wasn’t too long after finishing he firstIt was lovely to find a contemporary crime author who is simply a fine writer at the end of last year, and it wasn’t too long after finishing he first novel, Crossbones Yard, that I ordered this, her second.
The opening scene is perfectly executed.
A man is waiting for his train home on the London Underground. The platform is crowded, and he is pleased that he is at the front of the crowd, that he will be one of the first to board the next train. He can’t react when he feels a hand near his pocket, but he is pleased that he had the wisdom to keep his wallet in his inside pocket, leaving nothing for the pickpocket to find. But then he is pushed, hard, from behind and he falls onto the line, in the path of an oncoming train.
It might have been assumed to be suicide, or a horrible action, but the man survives, horribly mutilated, for long enough to say that he was pushed. And a postcard, reproducing a painting of and angel, and several white feathers are found in his pocket …..
The investigation falls to Don Burns. Twelve months on from events at Crossbones Yard his personal life has suffered, and he has been transferred, to work for a boss who doesn’t want him and with an ambitious and resentful assistant who had wanted Don’s job. It wasn’t a good situation, but it was horrible believable.
Don asked Alice Quentin, as psychologist who was also licenced to work as a forensic psychologist, to consult on the case. She didn’t really want to get involved, but she felt that she owed Don a favour, and she could see that he needed someone in his corner.
There were more murders and the link was clear: the victims were all closely linked with the Angel Bank, the most successful, the more notorious bank in the City of London.
Alice could build a profile, she could use a friend who worked with the Angel bank, and her new boyfriend who had connections there, to find things out. But the killer seemed to be uncatchable.
The story follows Alice as she works with the police, meeting and evaluating key figures; as she carries out her other professional duties, especially the case of a troubled young man who may have become a little too attached to her; and as life goes on, supporting her bipolar brother, managing her difficult mother, being encouraged to be a little more sociable by her wonderful Lola, and running through the streets of London, to prepare for a marathon and to leave the stresses of daily life behind.
She’s a wonderful, three-dimensional character, and I was pleased to see her character growing a little. There was a setback though, and I do hope that her creator won’t let her get trapped in a loop. Or become one of these superwomen, who always knows – especially when the rest of the world thinks otherwise – and who has to go that extra mile, and put herself in danger, to sort out every last thing herself. I can’t say that’s a problem yet, but two books in I’ve seen a couple of things repeat that I hope won’t be the start of a continuing pattern.
What I did appreciate is that Alice’s personal life was the backdrop, rather than the main story. The balance was right, and that is something that goes wrong far too often in crime fiction series.
The characterisation – of the city and its people – was wonderful. And the story was compelling. There was a startling twist near the end, then a wonderful red herring, and the end itself – and the identity of the killer – was a complete surprise. It made sense, and, though I do have one or two unanswered questions, I do think that they are answerable.
And now I think about it the plot worked beautifully, with my only real issue being the authors occasional use of crime fiction cliché. Some crime writers need them, but crime writers who write as well and understand psychology as well as Kate Rhodes don’t. Though it didn’t spoil the story at all.
And now I’m eagerly anticipating the next story …… ...more
It was chance that led me to discover C. H. B. Kitchin last year. I read 'Streamers Waving', one of his earliest novels and I discovered that he was aIt was chance that led me to discover C. H. B. Kitchin last year. I read 'Streamers Waving', one of his earliest novels and I discovered that he was an author with wit, understanding, and such lovely style. that book left me eager to read more of his work, and I was so pleased to discover a wonderfully diverse range of titles being reissued, some by the wonderful Valancourt Books and others as Faber Finds.
The simplicity of ‘The Auction Sale’ called me first. It’s a small, quiet story, and it tells the story of an auction over three days, just before the war. The contents of a country house were being sold; because the owner had died, he had left the home to his sister, and she had decided to sell up.
Miss Alice Elton was attending the sale, because she had many happy memories of Ashleigh Place, just outside the small town of Markenham. She had been secretary to Mr Durrant, and she had become companion and dear friend to his wife. That part of her life was over, but she remembered it with such love. For the people for she knew, and for the timeless beauty of the house itself. She just wanted to see it again, to remember, and to bid on one of two lots that held particular memories.
Miss Elton’s memories were wrapped around the story of the three days of the sale quite beautifully. Mr Kitchin captured the proceedings at the auction – the differing styles of the two auctioneers, the curious locals, the professional dealers – so very well. And as lots came and went Miss Elton remembered so many things.
She remembered her friend’s concern for the uncle who brought the house, and for her troubled orphan nephew who came to live their for a time. And she remembered her friend’s relationship with the lovely Mr Osmund Sorenius; a relationship that might have been a love affair, had they both not had an instinctive loyalty to their respective spouses. Miss Elton had been friend to both, and a chaperone maybe.
As I read ‘The Auction Sale’ two other books and a film came to mind. The love of the house reminded me of Vita Sackville-West’s 'The Heir'; the stirring of memories brought Ruby Ferguson’s 'Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary' to mind; and the almost love affair had echoes of ‘Brief Encounter.’ That was lovely, but as I read I came to love ‘The Auction Sale’ for its own sake.
Mr Kitchin writing was subtle and sensitive; he so clearly understood, his style suited his story perfectly; and he brought the house and all of those who passed through, and the auction and all of those present, to life.
I appreciated the attention to detail, the contrast between the quietness of the past and the liveliness of the auction, and way the changes at the house were set against the changes that the coming war would bring. Most of all I appreciated Miss Elton. She might have been a tragic figure, but she wasn’t; she he had lost much, she had little, but she accepted that life had changed, and would continue to change, and she carried on.
I was so pleased that she had two successful bids, and that she won a painting and a bowl. They had little monetary value, but they carried particular memories.
The story ended at the end of the third day of the auction. Miss Elton collected her purchases, and she took them home.
It was lovely to meet her, to attend the auction, and to be trusted with her memories. ...more
I’m wary of dark crime fiction, preferring to read just a handful of authors I know I can trust, but I read words of praise that made me think I mightI’m wary of dark crime fiction, preferring to read just a handful of authors I know I can trust, but I read words of praise that made me think I might have found another name to add to my list. Now that I have read her first novel, ‘Crossbones Yard’, I can say that I have.
There are many elements that are familiar in this book, but the quality of the writing was such that I didn’t mind. It made the characters, their worlds, their situations lived and breathed. And, as this is the first book in a series, and a first crime novel by the author, I see great potential for future books.
The central character, Alice Quentin, is rather like so many other women at the centre of crime fiction series; highly capable in her professional life but rather less capable in her personal life. But she is much better drawn, much more credible, than most – if not all – of the others. She’s a psychologist, and she is clearly driven, she clearly works hard, and so she has done well. Particularly since she didn’t have the best of starts in life. Her father was abusive; he tyrannised his family. Now he has died, Alice’s relationship with her mother is strained, and her relationship with her mentally ill brother, who she desperately wants to help and support, is strained. She holds people at a distance, and her relationships with men tend to be short term; but she is a loyal friend. And at night she runs. Coping strategies maybe, but she was coping with life not just with her past. As we all do. The point I’m trying to make is that there was cause and effect, that there was depth, that the psychology rang true, and that Alice was a credible, believable character.
Alice asked by the police to assess Maurice Cley – a known associate of Ray and Marie Benson, who had been convicted for murdering thirteen young women at the London hostel they ran – as he was due to be released from prison. Her assessment was that Maurice wasn’t likely to reoffend, but soon there was another murder bearing all of the Bensons’ trademarks – including some that had never been made public. And it became clear that Alice was at risk …..
The story had many familiar elements, and the Benson case was clearly inspired by the case of Fred and Rosemary West, but the story played out well enough. What brought it to life though, was Alice’s story. She ended one relationship and began another – with a policeman. She was putting up an actress friend. She was deeply concerned about her brother, who had parked his van nearby, and she feared that he might have seen things or done things.
It was a wonderful human story, and it was clear that Kate Rhodes really understood her characters and difficult mental heath issues. The psychology was pitch perfect, and her view was clear and unflinching. And I see so much potential here for a series.
Alice did, to some degree, place herself at risk. But I did understand that she wanted – needed – to keep running, to stick to her usual routine. And I realised, near the end, when she paid the price, that what she did that night she did in the heat of the moment, without thinking it through. She wouldn’t be the first, and she definitely wouldn’t be the last.
That set up a dramatic conclusion. It felt inevitable, and I had identified the killer correctly, but it was the sort of book that made that not matter. I was caught up in Alice’s story, in an excellent psychological drama.
And I must praise the writing – Kate Rhodes uses words very, very well, and she has the rare and wonderful gifts of being able to load a sentence with meaning and be subtle at the same time. That quality of writing, and fine creation and understanding of character and relationships, are more than good enough for me to want to keep reading her books. ...more