by Hilary Mantel ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 1, 1997
Acclaimed British novelist Mantel (An Experiment in Love, 1996, etc.; see below) offers a provocative take on men and women of goodwill side-swiped by unsuspected evil and betrayal in places as far apart as Botswana and England. The story, moving between the past and recent present, is a cautionary, compassionate tale of a model family almost destroyed by its secrets. At the start, Ralph Eldred has just learned that sister Emma, a doctor, has had a longtime affair with the married and recently deceased Felix. Ralph, whose life has been spent helping ""sad cases and good souls,"" is shaken by this ""failure of self-knowledge."" As a young man, his wealthy and devout father forced him to give up his plans to study geology and to work instead at the inner-city mission. When offered a posting to South Africa, Ralph accepted because it would take him far away from his father. He marries Anna, as principled as he, and they settle into mission life. It's now the early 1960s, apartheid's apogee, and the two routinely confront police brutality and corruption. They become activists, eventually find themselves imprisoned, and then, released from jail, accept a remote posting in Botswana, where Anna gives birth to the twins Kit and Matthew. Later, a malevolent servant stabs Ralph and abducts the twins. Only Kit is found. Back in England, Ralph and Anna have more children but never tell them about the lost baby. Kit, however, now a college graduate, is troubled by dreams of Africa; Anna, still heartsore and angry over losing her child, feels alienated from Ralph; son Julian is adrift, and Ralph himself finds his charity work meaningless. He himself now slips into an affair, discovery of which finally provides a necessary catharsis. Emotions are vented, secrets revealed, and the family's love and faith are found to be stronger than suspected. A subtle exploration in vividly detailed settings of the complex workings of the hearts of well-intentioned people. Intelligent and moving.
Pub Date: July 1, 1997
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997
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