No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Saturday, April 30, 2005

#33: The Last Deception of Palliser Wentwood -- Imogen de la Bere

Gleaned in a Greenwich remainder shop ages ago: a delightful read that I wish I'd got around to before now.

It's 1959. Two strands to the story: Salome Wentwood, abandoned wife, bringing up four daughters on a shoestring (actually, on a marshy plot of reclaimed land) in New Zealand's South Island; Palliser Wentwood, middle-aged rake, seeking gainful employment (and whatever opportunities may come his way) amid the lonely rich of Hertfordshire, UK. Both of them have quite remarkable luck, both good and bad.
It's not a romance. If anything, it's about the lies that underlie the romantic myth (quite literally in this case) and about what happens after you've met, and lost, your True Love.

I do like the characters, even the reprehensible Palliser (who the author admits to having a soft spot for -- as is all too evident). Salome rocks: "I admit I do often wish I was an 18th-century lady explorer, but I don't think they were particularly upright, except in posture." Even her admirer Philip ("when he decided the amorous episode was ended, he took out his handkerchief and wiped any traces of lipstick off his mouth") is affectionately portrayed.

I'm not entirely keen on the authorial intrusions (though they're few): and I think there's a certain smugness in the way the author handles (or, rather, doesn't handle) events towards the end of the book. But I love the voice, the language, the sly asides. Reminded me of Cold Comfort Farm, I Capture the Castle, and (for some reason) Flannery O'Connor.

reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place

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