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British Orange Prize—winning novelist Dunmore adds to a reputation for psychologically complex and brilliantly nuanced thrillers (Your Blue-Eyed Boy, 1998; Talking to The Dead, 1997) with this tale of two brothers, one driven to succeed, the other to fail, and of the woman whose affections they shared and the daughter who looked to them all for love. In a superbly pregnant and piquant opening scene in a London garden, Louise is poised to give birth to Anna, the child conceived after ten years of trying with her husband Paul—though the child’s father is really his much younger brother Johnnie. A kaleidoscope of scenes jumps the story forward ten years, at which point Louise, divorced and forced to give up Anna, has gone to seed and abandoned hope to alcohol. Paul takes the child to live in far-off Yorkshire with his frosty new wife, leaving her largely to her own devices while he relentlessly makes his millions in the purchase and sale of contaminated land. Johnnie, meanwhile, has rejected every golden opportunity his increasingly successful, overly protective brother has offered him, preferring the thrills that come with cocaine trafficking and life on London’s mean streets. One day he makes a big mistake, however, and has to get out of town; Louise, who still loves him and has nothing to keep her where she is, offers to go with him. The two decamp just before Anna, having discovered how intensely she dislikes her hard, horse riding—obsessed stepmother, runs away to visit Louise. All the traveling comes to a tragic end, and Paul is left with the realization that, in one way or another, he has lost everything he held most dear. With scenes vividly detailed to an astounding degree, these tangled lives, troubled and darkly fulfilling as they are, prove to be utterly absorbing.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-87113-773-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1999


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