The febrile cloisters of Oxbridge
I was pulled towards this from reading an excellent review by a reviewer on Amazon, comparing it to 2 other novels, a Du Maurier, My Cousin Rachel, and Donna Tartt’s first novel. Exactly right.
This is a slowly paced book, intense and obsessive. It details the solipsistic experience of a group of undergraduates, and then the events 10 years later, when one of them is murdered (no spoiler, this is laid out in the ‘blurb’)
The narrator, now a lawyer, and the husband of the murdered woman, is an attractive figure – he has his own troubled family history, which has slewed his world view, making him not the most sociable of men. He is introverted, reflective, a little obsessional, awash with self-doubt, and rather an outsider from the start, not completely at ease in the hothouse privileged world of Oxford. This gives his narrative voice a certain un-urgent nature – the drive of the book is not really ‘who-dunnit’ – in some ways suspicions arise quite early, for the reader; the drive is more – how does the knowledge revealed change the relationships of the main characters? It also leads to reflections on change, the transformative nature of love, and indeed – can we fully know those we love, and, if we do, what if that knowledge changes our ability to love them. What is the nature of love, if you like.
At some point in the book, when details of the summer ball began to unspool, and the relationships of the Literature students, I did think, oh no, this is all too much, its not quite believable, I’m losing a sense of credibility here; but whilst not a ‘perfect’ book, because of that, it still held me clutched tightly again, mainly due to the quality of the writing, and the central character. I found seeing through Alex’s eyes worked extremely well.
As an Eng Lit graduate myself, the Browning theme was appreciated!
A slowly paced, unfurling book, asking the reader to take pleasure in the journey, rather than ratchet up the suspense element and race to the conclusion. It has also reminded me how very much I enjoyed both books that earlier reviewer mentioned, and I’ll be going back for a re-read!
I do notice this is a book which seems to have been loved and loathed in equal measure. I’m clearly one of the former, and i guess Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ may help a prospective reader to avoid disappointment.
‘What happens next?’, ratchet up the tension page turner, it isn’t and you do have not to mind a central character who is damaged and possibly over credulous (hence the My Cousin Rachel comparison)