Cora, Countess de Chevalier de Saint Léger, now an old lady has returned to England in the long hot summer of 1911. Cora has spent the previous sixty years in Paris and Rome visiting `home’ only occasionally. Having been urged when she left England’s shores by her Aunt Frances to look forwards and never back there is clearly a secret to be discovered the question is that will Cora ever reveal what it is?
I enjoyed the writing in this book, loved the descriptions of the small rural village of Bramley during 1911 when a young neighbour Cecily Chadwick is entranced by Cora’s only relative, her grandson, Jack. Unfortunately by the end of the 372 pages of being drip-fed tit bits of information about Cora’s husbands, lovers, children and friends and enemies I no longer cared about the secret as I didn’t care about Cora. I thought the most interesting and realistically drawn character was Sylvia, Cora’s oldest friend, who was in Bramley to write her memoirs.
This is a story about loss, Cora had one great passion in her life that was never fulfilled and her memory was clouded by the re-writing of her history which meant that the stories she had told over the years had to be unpicked to reveal the beginning. The nature of this tale means that there is a lot of flitting backwards and forwards over the years, Judith Kinghorn handled this well which meant that it was easy to follow the storyline. I’m sure I would have enjoyed this book more if I had some sympathy for Cora but she never really came to life for me.
I received this book through the Amazon Vine Programme.
Worthless Men transports the reader to an unnamed market town in England in the year 1916 where many of the men have gone to fight in World War I and the war has changed everyone’s lives. This town could be anywhere in England with a butcher, a chemist, the wealthy family who dispense largesse to the poor, the crowded damp houses and the men who settle disputes in the pub or with their fists.
The book is split into very short chapters which link together in an almost whimsical way, following each of the five characters memories of the past, as well as showing us the present. This device means that as the book progresses the reader has built up a picture of the town and its inhabitants in a similar way we usually get to know people by putting the facts of what they say and do together with the `reading between the lines’ for the unsaid.
The book is written in the third person and two of the five main characters are interested in eugenics. Eugenics was respected at the beginning of the twentieth century and it is shocking to realise that some thought that the war was a way of cleaning up the gene pool thereby removing the worthless men. The theme of worthless men is strong throughout the book and different types of worthlessness are scattered amongst its pages.
I loved the style of this book; the gradual building up of a picture was immensely satisfying with every page of this 260 page book adding detail to this well-known historical period. After finishing reading the book I discovered that Andrew Cowen had recorded some oral histories earlier in his career which is probably why the feeling of authenticity is so strong.
I think this book would be an excellent for a Book Club. I received this book from Amazon Vine.