Both witty and deeply moving, Jewell’s latest tale of a fractured family spans 30 years of Easter Sundays.
The Bird family lives a postcard-worthy life in the Cotswolds. Their garden cottage is filled with bric-a-brac and children’s drawings; father Colin is thoughtful; the two girls, Meg and Beth, and twin boys Rory and Rhys are clever, kind and muddy. And then there's mother Lorelei, the center of their bohemian universe, whose beauty and love of beautiful things hide darker obsessions that turn everything about their life into an unfathomable mess. The novel begins in 2011 as a grown Meg enters her childhood home. Lorelei has died of starvation, and Meg is down from London to sort things out. The house is impenetrable, filled with towers of newspapers, useless baubles and piles of ceaseless hoarding. It didn’t used to be that way—Meg remembers a bright childhood, in particular Easter Sundays in which an extended clan gathered for egg hunts and Lorelei’s brand of childlike magic. And then one Easter when Meg is 20, they find Rhys hanging from the rafters of his room. His suicide sinks everyone: Golden Rory runs off to a Spanish commune (and continues to run, until one day he ends up in a Thai prison); sensible Meg abandons her family for the new one she makes with Bill; Beth begins an illicit affair with Bill; and Lorelei forces Colin out so her new lover, Vicky, can move in. As Meg sorts through the rubbish, we are privy to Lorelei’s last correspondence to Jim, an Internet boyfriend to whom she confesses all her lonely secrets. Though Jewell's novels masquerade as breezy, they are unpredictable and emotionally complex.
Jewell, a wry observer of human folly, delivers with this latest tale of loneliness and the lure of beautiful things.