Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book Review: "Coral Glynn" by Peter Cameron

What a captivating little old-fashioned soap opera of a book!

It's England in 1950. Young Coral Glynn, a nurse, arrives at Hart House, an isolated mansion in the countryside, to care for the terminally ill Mrs. Maud Hart. Other than Mrs. Hart, the house is populated only by the housekeeper, Mrs. Prence, who takes an almost-immediate dislike to Coral, and Mrs. Hart's somewhat-estranged son, Clement, who was injured in World War 2, and spends most of his days brooding over his injuries. Clement sees in Coral a solution to keeping his beloved childhood friend, Robin, and their latent homosexuality, at arm's length; Coral sees in Clement stability, especially after she encounters children playing a disturbing game in the woods. All at once, they are propelled into a relationship both are unsure of, and as secrets are revealed, it appears Coral is not quite what she seems. This novel has all of the makings of the novels of days gone by—death, suspicion, misunderstandings, unrequited love (in many forms), desparity between classes, secrets, and intriguing characters.

Peter Cameron is a fantastic writer—his novels The Weekend and Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You are among my all-time favorites. This is a very interesting departure from anything he's written before, and it really feels very old-fashioned, in an enjoyable way. If I have any criticism of this book, it's that I didn't feel that Cameron made a persuasive enough case for Coral's appeal to so many. To me, she seemed indecisive and flighty to a point that was somewhat annoying from time to time, but it didn't mar my enjoyment of the book overall. At slightly more than 200 pages, this is a very fast, enjoyable read, and the type of book you (or at least I) rarely see these days.

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