This wonderful book opens with the voice of Helen, a somewhat bored mother of two, married to Richard who works away as a data analyst, a mother who has reached the point in her life when she wants to do something for her. Helen decides to join an evening class in writing and meets a tutor Henry Ross who sees something he likes, something he wants. Is it because she has inherited her talent from her Grandfather, the post-war writer Edward Barton? Could the literary genetics which meant that his book, Interlude was turned into a film be her inheritance?
Helen remembers Edward Barton from her early childhood but there was a family split in her early teens and she hasn’t seen him since. She embarks on a journey to find out more about him, and boy she certainly does that. Helen’s voice is perfectly pitched, you may not admire her actions, but they are certainly both recognisable and understandable from her narrative.
I was momentarily confused when the book switched from Helen to excerpts from Edward Barton’s most famous book, Interlude which tells the story of Derek who joins a theatre in the run up to World War II, historically intriguing with tales of illicit passions and a strong survival instinct to make enough money to keep a roof over his head and some morsels of food to keep him going. These are clues to Edward but the bulk of his narrative appears after his death, when Helen who was given his literary works in his will, discovers diaries and manuscripts which tell a story that twists and turns through lost and found love.
I loved this book, the tale told is fascinating, the time period as expertly described as the emotions and motives that assault the reader as each character’s lack of morals is raised from seediness by the affection Rupert Smith creates, this isn’t a book of black and white, there is always just enough room for doubt that like those sinned against I had an inkling of hope that the emotions were real and this time everything really would be ok for the whole cast of characters, well maybe not Henry Ross, but at the same time knowing that such was the tangled lives that were carefully hidden beneath layers of deception, that this was an impossible outcome.
I received my copy of this book from Amazon Vine, and if I’m honest it isn’t one I’d ever have chosen if it hadn’t appeared in my queue but am I glad it did! This is a truly fantastic find, a read quite unlike any other this year that marries my love of past actions having consequences on the present, family secrets, and these are explosive, and beautiful language that meant I knew I would enjoy the book for the writing alone from the very first page.
This book is one of those where I’ve closed the page but I know that Helen, Edward, Billy and Geraldine will linger on for a long time, in my mind they are real people and there is enough uncertainty that I can conjure up an ending for Helen.