Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Mother country (Russell Taylor) 512

I thought this novel was absolutely stunning, and quite a contrast to Pillion Riders which I read the other week. Whilst I quite enjoyed Pillion Riders, I was truly gripped by this well-paced and exquisitely written novel.

The book opens:
'It is as if my entire early life were distilled in that one summer's afternoon and evening ...I had arrived at the cross-roads feeling oppressed by the heat, but as soon as I turned into the avenue, I felt cold ...'

The main character Antonia has returned home, after an absence of 20 years as her mother is dying. She has come to make her peace, but as soon as her sister Charlotte lets her in, it becomes obvious to us that this will not be easy.

The story, set predominantly in the 1960s, is cleverly told with passages alternating between the present where Antonia tries to come to grips with the current situation and her past, and the past (set in and after the Second World War) where we find out about Antonia's unhappy childhood and the destructiveness of her family relationships. These passages are constructed into chapters relating to her mother, Charlotte, Walter (her secret lover), her resolution of the situation and a "post-mortem" after her mother dies.

I thought that the writing was absolutely beautiful, and this book makes me determined to seek out more of Elisabeth Russell Taylor's work, even though the rest are not published as VMCs. I am sure she is a much overlooked author.

Just the one cover, above, issued in 2004, which I own.

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