Thursday, March 11, 2010

A haunting novel

Another good book, a first novel this time. Two women, one in the present, one in the mid-nineteenth century, as far as I can make out from the social history of the time. Both have suffered loss, and their shared experience seems to sensitise the present-day owner of the cottage to the presence of the past. But Baker doesn't just follow the story of Rachel, tidying out her parent's country retreat after the death of her mother; in equal measure we follow the life of Elizabeth at the time when her world and the society she inhabits are both shaken by the arrival of the Chartist movement.

By the end of the novel I was as moved by the plight of the ordinary countryfolk of the nineteenth century as I was by the emotional turmoil of both women. I had learned a bit about the roots of the democracy we now take - more or less - for granted, and the suffering of those who sought to break out of the tyranny of the master-servant mould. Not only that: I was delighted by the visual quality of Baker's prose and by the mastery of pace and rhythm.

Another recommendation for your next book group?

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