Friday, April 27, 2012

A Suggestion from Maureen

NPR book critic Maureen Corrigan was describing a scene in her local bookstore where she overheard a conversation between two women who were looking for “a new British novelist”. She didn't interrupt, despite having a good suggestion, namely author Peter Cameron, an American who spent part of his childhood in England. (Maureen, if you're ever next to me in a bookstore, go ahead and jump in.)

Cameron's latest novel is set in 1950's England, but if not for the presence of electricity and automobiles it could have been a century earlier. Coral Glynn, a young private duty nurse who is "rather pretty ... in a plain way." comes to a country house to care for the dying mother of middle-aged, war-damaged Major Clement Hart. Are you thinking Jane Eyre? When the mother dies, what seems inevitable happens, except it doesn't quite. What the characters do next seems predictable, except it isn't exactly. And how things finally turn out seems unexpected, or was I just not paying attention? And although there is no crazy wife in the attic, there is an oddly Gothic scene that spins the plot around.

At various times I was ready to grab both Clement and Coral by the shoulders and shake some sense into them, but these are not people who would have responded well to my intervention. Each is damaged and repressed, and both are capable of impulsive and sometimes inexplicable behavior.

If you're a fan of “Jane Eyre”, or even “Rebecca”, I think you'll enjoy the resonances even though the plot twists in a different direction, and I'd definitely recommend this as a plane ride or beach read.

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