FOR: Neighborhood Book Club
FIRST Sentence: “Today at half-past two in the afternoon I was acquitted of the murder of my husband.”
What’s it ABOUT: The story obviously begins with a trial and a murder and probable marital strife; we also get to experience the trauma of the world between and of the two world wars. Here’s what happens and how it is setup: Diana is having a birthday and she invites a few of her favorite friends – mind you, these friends are not friends of the husband’s. Diana is a very interesting person and it is her husband who is murdered at that birthday party weekend. The year is 1925.
“Fanny herself had no money, no education and only erratic employment, most recently and implausibly in a bookshop. “How can that be?” Diana had once said to her husband. “She doesn’t know how to read.” George’s silence was his habitual response to Diana’s sharpness.”
THEN, we jump to the early 1990s and meet Diana’s great niece, Hannah, a single woman, and thus by default?* hard-working, rising-star attorney in London.
“…those (birthdays with) zeros. Not at 20 perhaps, but at 30 it begins, the casting of accounts, the recalling of doors not opened and roads not taken. Only in noise and distraction, companionship and conversation becoming progressively more sentimental, could it be avoided.”
Diana, referred to as “the Great Aunt”, dies in her 98th year. Hannah inherits the estate, or most of it –Diana has made a point to will lots and lots of money and goodies to all the females in the family. What? She was wealthy?! None of the family members are aware of her fortune and certainly not her past – the fact that she was acquitted of murder. To them, she was just a lovely old lady who tended her garden. It was crazy to think she was once a wild woman who experienced anything dramatic. They decide to find out what really happened.
Hannah has her own secrets…
“He, who had for weeks or days been the peaceful background hum of her existence, suddenly became the only sound in her universe.”
Just like Trish, I am not one to try and guess the whodunnits or even want to spot if any zany twists, forcing any unravelings of plot. I adored this story and how it unfolded! I was, as they say, on the edge of my seat and this was a wonderful way to temper my #SalemAlong reading of ‘Salem’s Lot.
“Edith, she works in order not to think. At home it would be impossible to spend a few days among such people without any discussion of ideas.”
It’s not just the turns, the reveal and the various character studies; it was the analysis of marriage and independence. Of feminism and how women had/have to assert themselves, or not. Of careers and ambition, the balance of power. There is a lot here to admire – in the thoughts expressed and how the author presents all of it in the story.
“For Pia, any weakness or shame, such as that George had inadvertently revealed, filled her with the desire to protect and shelter, to hide the exposed place. George had shown a crack to the base of his soul. He saw himself as a failure. He had married Diana to use her beauty and talent to shore up the gaping fissures in his personality and found that they could not be used.”
What’s GOOD/NOT so good? . . . SKIP . . .
FINAL Thoughts: I think we will have a LOT to discuss at meeting and I am really hoping that this book charmed the others in club as much as I was charmed.
RATING: There were zero pie mentions (and no lobster ones, either, I’m afraid) but I still give this FIVE slices. Let’s go with MINCE MEAT PIE since Mincemeat Pie Day is October 26.
ha-ha – sunk fence
alpinism – climbing the Alps
soubrette – frivolous young woman in comedies
kedgeree – an Indian dish of seasoned rice, beans, lentils, and sometimes smoked fish
danegeld – an annual tax believe to have been imposed originally to buy off Danish invaders in England
Stakhanovite – a Soviet industrial worker awarded recognition and special privileges for output beyond production norms
charabanc – a sight-seeing motor coach
ukase – a proclamation by a Russian emperor or govt having the force of law, edict
* default: how can a girl/woman of 30 yo not have a husband or significant other? might as well be good at your job since you have no one to take care of… sheesh…