Dan's Reviews > Coral Glynn

Coral Glynn by Peter Cameron
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's review
Apr 06, 2012

really liked it
Read in April, 2012

A book not easy to describe and difficult to forget
Hart House – located on a slight rise in the English countryside near a woodland called Sap Green Forest – where Coral Glynn arrives on a wet Thursday in the spring of 1950, is a cold and inhospitable place, remote and almost foreboding. Coral shivers, “The house was so far from anything.”

Coral is a nurse, the third to be called to attend to the old lady, Mrs. Hart, who is dying of cancer. It’s unclear why the two nurses before her had left or been driven away.

What is apparent as soon as we meet the Major, the dying woman’s son, and the secretive housekeeper Mrs. Prentice is that author Peter Cameron is drawing a comparison to “Jayne Eyre” – in atmospherics if not so much in storyline. Instead of a raging woman locked behind doors upstairs, we have secrets and deception of another sort closeted away.

On the surface, everything is proper to the point of being flat and contrived. Each character has managed to repress desire and remain as remote and isolated as Hart House. They bury their need and keep their distance from each other by speaking in pleasantries in order to avoid anything close to intimacy.

When Maj. Hart invites her to sit beside him on the sofa “Carol looked at him as if he had asked her to join him in the bathtub. There seemed to be something unbearably intimate about sitting on the same cushion with him.”

Then, like some sort of conjurer, Cameron transforms a walk Coral takes into Sap Green Forest into an encounter with two young children deep in a thicket that becomes something primal and sinister and will come to haunt her in ways you’d never suspect.

The incident deep in Sap Green Forest is one of many seemingly random occurrences involving Coral. Each event when it’s revealed adds another dimension and a deeper understanding to the life she has led before coming to Hart House. Turns out each character has his or her dark past and deep secrets, all part of a surprising and compelling web of intrigue.

What grabbed me most about “Coral Glynn” were the story’s layers. The surface is damp and chilly, all prim and full of rectitude. But one level down, there is the heat of a complex tale that’s very compelling, woven together by honest love and feeling.

It’s one of those novels that is difficult to talk with someone about. Its simple narrative doesn’t convey the depth of its portrayal of the human spirit. Perhaps not easy to describe, “Coral Glynn” is for sure not easy to forget.


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