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.
Carmel and Katrina’s “friendship” is established by chance early on, cemented when their strong mothers settle into their own solidarity. In An Experiment in Love, we are shown how these relationships evolve as the two girls progress through the 1960s state education system to become first generation university students, moving from their home town in Lancashire to study in London in 1970.
Along the way a third girl impinges on the “friendship”, boys and sex arrive on the scene and we watch Carmel’s slow yet steady descent into anorexia.
This tale of complicated family relationships is set in Grace, Arizona, home to populations of peacocks, Hispanics and Native Americans, which co-exist comfortably in this remote mining town.
Thirty-something Codi returns to Grace to take care of her father, Doc Homer, who’s self-diagnosed the early stages of Alzheimers. Her younger sister Hallie has recently left Tucson to put her agricultural skills to better use in Nicaragua where US-backed Contras are fighting the Sandinistas in the Nicaraguan Revolution.
Back “home”, Codi reconnects with her High School world – some of it happy, most of it not. A strong environmental / ecological strand weaves around her rekindled relationship with Loyd Peregrina, a Native American she knew in her teenage years.
As the story progresses, Grace slowly starts to find herself less of the outsider she always felt herself to be.
Glyn finds a photo of his (dead) wife surreptitiously holding hands with another.
This novel traces the fall out as he proceeds to question family and friends about his wife’s fidelity during their marriage.
Why did Glyn feel the need to persist in his selfish pursuit for The Truth? I’d say it’s part of his nature. At least he continued his compassion-free quest to the bitter end, and I would love to know what happened next.