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Abandoned by their parents and surrounded by family secrets, Cathy and her brother, Rob, are raised on their grandfather's rural in England at the turn of the 20th century. While Rob is able to break free, unhappy Cathy is isolated to the extreme, and her passions turn to their only possible outlet: her brother. The story is wreathed in mysteries with a possibility of violence, yet this is not just a bleak tale of incest or a murder mystery. Rather, it is a lyrical exploration of the meaning of love and the possibilities of life. Dunmore (Talking to the Dead) writes poetry as well as prose, and through poetic writing she has crafted a sensual narrative. This modern Gothic, which won the first Orange Prize in Britain in 1995, is recommended for most public and academic collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/00.]DMary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
In the years before World War I, Cathy, the narrator, and her brother grow up on their grandfather's impoverished English estate. Their mother abandoned them when they were small, and their father dies after being institutionalized. Except for the ministrations of the maid, Kate, and the interference of the repulsive governess, they are left on their own. It seems inevitable when their closeness takes an unnatural and destructive turn. A wealthy neighbor is refurbishing a nearby estate and offers Cathy glimpses of a larger world, but she cannot bring herself to respond. In the meantime, there are threats to her hermetic existence--the governess' intrusions become intolerable; first Kate and her brother, Rob, decide to leave. And finally the war comes, taking most of the neighboring men with it, so that Cathy is left with her ailing grandfather to scratch out an existence on the farm. It's only when the war ends and she is alone that she is ready to break away. With a handful of characters and rich, ripe prose, Dunmore creates a compelling tale of obsession. --Mary Ellen Quinn
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Unsettling love and stifled horror create and then destroy the claustrophobic world of this lush, literary gothic set in turn-of-the-century England. Catherine and Rob Allen, siblings two years apart, grow up in a world of shameful secrets. Their mother creates a public outcry, abandoning her family for a bohemian life on the Continent. Their father, whose mental state always has been slightly precarious, is committed to an asylum in the country. The children are sealed off with their grandfather in a crumbling country estate accompanied by their sturdy and well-loved servant, Kate, and the predatory tutor, Miss Gallagher. In true gothic fashion, terror, violence and eroticism collect beneath every dark surface. Against this strange and secretive backdrop, Cathy and Rob develop a closeness so fierce that it eventually threatens to smother them both. Kate makes the first crack in their hermetically sealed world, which World War I eventually bursts wide open. With Kate's departure for Canada and Rob's for the front, destitute times at home force Cathy into self-reliance. It's only after she's redeemed by hardship that she's given a second chance to be redeemed by love. Though the setting is classic gothic, the novel is peculiarly modern with its precise, unforgiving depictions of childhood and madness, its dark sensuality and surprising, artful use of metaphor. The intensity and darkness of the world Dunmore creates teeters between gripping and overwrought; some may find the story heavy-handed. Still, Dunmore's keen, close writing is deserving of Britain's prestigious Orange Prize, which the novel won when it was first published in the U.K. in 1995, and most will enjoy the book as a finely crafted, if disturbing, literary page-turner. (Feb.) Forecast: Dunmore's stock has been steadily rising with the publication in the U.S. of her last three novels (Your Blue-Eyed Boy; Talking to the Dead; With Your Crooked Heart); demand for this earlier, career-establishing work should be strong. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved