Brothers Paul and Johnnie, each making their own way from working class to wealth, both love Louise, who we first meet one long hot summer when she is pregnant with daughter Anna.
There follows a series of shifts in time and place, from London where we see Louise’s life before motherhood and on into the alcohol infused decade that follows Anna’s birth, to Yorkshire having lost Anna and Paul to Paul’s new wife, Sonia and a new life in the country.
The pace then changes as we watch three stories unfold: Anna and David, Louise and Johnnie, Paul and Sonia.
Beautiful writing, all the more so knowing there will be no more from Helen Dunmore.
I almost gave up on Helen Dunmore’s Cold War novel. I didn’t like the “men from the Ministry” – the all male world of a post-War Admiralty, and the spooks and the spies at work there – and it wasn’t until the narrative shifted to focus more on the fall out for Lily Callington and her family and friends that I really cared about any of the characters.
You gradually learn that Lily was born in Germany to Jewish parents, and fled as a child with her mother to London. She’s buried that part of her life, and has lost all memory of the German language despite teaching French and Italian at a North London Girl’s school. Her husband, Simon Callington, is a lowly clerk at the Admiralty, who has a secret of his own from his Cambridge student days which ultimately enmeshes him in Cold War corruption.
Bristol’s 18th century building boom when the elegant terraces emerged above Clifton Gorge; revolutionaries in France and radicals in England – Lizzie Fawkes’s life provides an intersection of all three in Helen Dunmore‘s last novel.
1952, and a young doctor and his new wife arrive in a small town in the East Riding of Yorkshire, renting a basic flat with the landlady upstairs to save money to buy a place of their own.
One cold winters night, Isabel finds an old World War II greatcoat in a cupboard, and is soon deep into an affair with its airman owner – turning a blind eye to the fact that his airbase is now a dilapidated collection of abandoned buildings and reclaimed farmland on the outskirts of town.