Books by Sarah Woodhouse

OTHER LIVES by Sarah Woodhouse
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 11, 1997

In her period novels and in the delightful Meeting Lily (1995), this British author's women have frequently been absorbed in untangling domestic and amorous messes. Here, in a new novel set in England and on a paradisiacal stretch of Greek coastline, it's no different: A gracefully self-propelled widow of 63 eludes the snares set by well-intended children as she probes for the hidden meaning in an old romance. To the wonder of her three children and three grandchildren, Lucy Fletcher seems neither surprised nor gratified when she is bequeathed, in the will of famous archeologist Oliver Lussom, a beautiful home on a remote Greek beach. Elder son Chris, who like his late father is an insensitive dud, expects her to sell, which will facilitate her move from the homely rambling house she shares with the writer ``Turk'' (nÇe Marianne), a younger chum with the tongue of a seagoing parrot. Lucy's daughter is a widow, darkly garbed and heavily, depressingly, into religion. Chris's wife Laura, a '60s flower child now grown and miserable, is perpetually in tears because Chris wants a divorce, and her two kids try fruitlessly to escape their mother's damp lamentations. Meanwhile, much wine is poured and a variety of agonies aired as Lucy relives her blazing relationship with Oliver. In flashbacks, Lucy's discovery of love and passion at 19 illuminates a childhood and youth that had been made barren by the cold, offhand parenting of her own widowed archeologist father: ``. . . love, far from shedding light, only showed up the darkness.'' But at the close, serenity and brighter days seem to be in store for Lucy and her descendants (even her lonely younger son finds a tender love). Then, of course, there's the healing influence of Greek sun and heat and an endless blue sea. Woodhouse's style is light and pleasing, though most of her characters, unlike those in Meeting Lily, stay a bit pallid here. Still, the chat is diverting, the scenery luscious. Read full book review >
MEETING LILY by Sarah Woodhouse
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Dec. 13, 1995

An appealing, busily peopled tale by the British author of several similarly bustling novels with iron-spined heroines (Enchanted Ground, 1993, etc.). This time, a recently widowed Englishwoman—in her 30s, frazzled, with a glum view of humanity in general—learns to cope (though barely) with an assortment of colliding guests, help, and neighbors, in her small hotel in a postwar Italian village. Nan has been accustomed to thinking of herself as the perennial outsider; certainly her mother had given ``home'' in England a sour meaning, and Nan's late husband, much older than she, had loved her but in an avuncular fashion—a fashion quite apart from that of lovers steaming in the fires of passion. Now, after a spell of post- bereavement weeping, Nan has rallied to try to put down roots, to belong to her villa-turned-hotel and its village. The cluster of troubles begins with the death of a guest, the elderly Major Baghot, whose vague little widow Molly seems not to care. The elusive Molly, given to wandering over meadows, is to be shipped back to England to live with her horrid sister Lily. But Molly seems disinclined to leave, and Lilly's own arrival approaches like Armageddon. Then there is the doomed love affair between a beautiful convent orphan and a dear young priest (a dark, secret tragedy, sunk in the village's past, intervenes), as well as the irritating affair of Dr. Fortuna, who's quietly, affectionately charmed by Nan, and the wife of a guest, whose husband fumes and whose little boy roams. While the household staff offers loud commentary, and matters are at a boil, Nan roars back and forth in her ancient Morris, shoring up finances and sanity, and hunting for the lost. Finally, good folks rally round, including competent, irreverent Aunt Dot from England, a priest (both friend and foe), and Dr. Fortuna. Without the lethal edge of Mary Wesley, but Woodhouse's fans- -as well as Wesley's—will be charmed and delighted by this comedy- with-a-bite. Read full book review >
ENCHANTED GROUND by Sarah Woodhouse
Released: Dec. 6, 1993

Woodhouse's previous period novels, set in the early 1800's, (The Native Air, 1991, etc.) featured admirable, strong-minded-and- limbed females coping with moldering estates and feckless men, a smattering of entertaining eccentrics, and a tangle of involvements. Here—in the 1920's—the women, living and dead (the past is a constant presence), are the first-rate copers, the country estate in splendid decay, and the story simple, weighted by country time and character as a woman at midlife learns some secrets, surmounts a crisis. Queenly, tough Harriet died in 1892, and then daughter-in-law Deborah died in childbirth. Now, Patricia (``Paddy''), in her 40s, has been forced to rent Bretton Hall, which Harriet had struggled to save and which Paddy's brother Tom, in Italy, would be happy to sell. The tenants are an ill-matched pair: flighty, restless Laura; kind, subdued Hugh; and their child Etta, an ungainly eight-year- old, who begins to blossom and tag along with gruff, strong, wildly unfashionable Paddy. Meanwhile, throughout the days of the hard- working country rounds, as Laura flits to Paris and Hugh begins to discover some new affections, there are many contacts with John, the current Chance—the Chances being tenant farmers become prosperous but declared by the Bretton men always out of bounds. Why? And what did three generations of Chance men mean to Bretton women? The secret to which Etta—literally—holds the key is revealed...but can Bretton Hall be saved? Settled in the lovely countryside with its ``sense of extraordinary permanence in the ancient trees''—and with the story matching the slow steady pace of seasonal change—this is the author's best to date (Woodhouse seems more at home in a more recent time period). A prime re-creation for country-minded Anglophiles. Read full book review >
THE NATIVE AIR by Sarah Woodhouse
Released: June 27, 1991

In A Season of Mists (1984) and The Peacock's Feather (1990), Woodhouse staked out a fictional portion of England's Norwich and surrounds for the mainly romantic adventures, circa 1800, of minor gentry. More of the same here, with most of the personae met in the earlier novels. The irascible Dr. Alex French, an army surgeon now back in the Norwich where he is respected and trusted, is still in love with young, lively widow Ann Gerard—who, here, is gamely soldiering on after a riding accident at her estate, Thorn, which is managed by the by-blow cousin she'd educated. Meanwhile, the neighboring estate, Blackow Hall, has a new and bizarre owner—elderly, red- wigged, oddly clothed Clodie M'Cool, usually seen magnificently riding huge touchy horses or trailed by packs of her dogs. She has a terrible temper—and she and Dr. Alex take to each other at once. Alex is fascinated by Clodie's restful, beautiful niece Julia, indifferent mother to eight-year-old Cassandra. In the midst of the community's bumbling preparation for the expected invasion by Napoleon, Cassandra is kidnapped—an event followed by a wild boat- chase, gunfire on a French beach, naughty Julia's flight (no surprise), and a highly contrived but jolly ending In a style at a gallop (with a few stumbles), an easy tale with likable characters, if a bit out of period in diction. But who cares? Read full book review >