DubaiReader's Reviews > The Great Lover

The Great Lover by Jill Dawson
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's review
Jun 24, 2011

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bookshelves: 2011, audible
Read in June, 2011

Review for the unabridged audio version.

This is a difficult book to review, given that it is based on the life of a poet who lived early last century (1887 - 1915). It is therefore a bit pointless to bemoan the fact that he appeared entierly self-centred and sexually obsessed, presumably that is how he was, but it didn't make for enjoyable listening. This is another audiobook that I may well have abandoned if it had been a regular book.

Rupert Brooke lived a relatively brief life, dying from septacemia from a mosquito bite while on active duty in WWI, hardly a triumphant death. He was not a particularly prolific poet but is probably best known for his highly charged war poems.
This narrative is largely told from the point of view of Nell, a ficttional character, who cares for him while he is living at The Orchard, Granchester. It is a flippant time, with Rupert and his fellow Cambridge students, wealthy and without a care beyond boating and sex. It's not all of the heterosexual variety either. Nell becomes just another of his potential conquests, though there does appear to be something meaningful lurking there, if he could ever have a meaningful relationship?
The story is pulled together by a letter sent from Tahiti, supposedly written by Rupert's daughter from his relationship with a Tahitian beauty, Taatamata, wanting to know more of the father she had never met. The letter finds its way into the hands of Nell, one of the many who had fallen in love with Rupert during his brief life. Nell thus narrates what she knew of him and Rupert's own voice fills in the parts she could not have known.

Jill Dawson's prose was faultless, I think my reservations with the book revolve around the behaviour and character of Ruper Brooke himself; his endless self-questioning and search for sexual understanding became quite tiresome.
The narration of this audio version was excellent, with Patience Tomlinson reading Nell's passages and William Rycroft, those of Rupert. Unfortunately there are some parts where the female narrator reads Rupert's voice and this did not ring true.

I would read another book by Jill Dawson but would not recomend this one unless you are a great fan of Rupert Brooks' writing.

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