English writer Leroy’s serious, delicately composed second (after Postcards from Berlin, 2003) presents an unhappy London wife and mother with a moral dilemma.
Ginnie Holmes’s life unfolds with the same cautious reserve she adopts for most situations. In her mid-40s, she is a psychologist for troubled children, the mother of two young women ready to leave the nest (one headed to Oxford), and the wife of a self-absorbed Irish medieval literature professor with whom she hasn’t had sex for years. Her life, like her house on the edge of London, “is half hidden.” She bears deep scars from having witnessed her father batter her mother, memories that her sister, Ursula, will not discuss or even acknowledge. Enveloped by a sense of futility, especially regarding a traumatized patient she can’t reach, Ginnie visits a detective to learn more about the child’s case and ends up in a passionate, one-day-a-week affair with him. Will is also married and protective of his other life. Once, having sneaked into an abandoned river house to meet him, she observes from the window a strange man running along the bank as if searching for something. When she learns of a young woman’s murder by the river and then recognizes the dead woman’s husband as the man she saw running, Ginnie has to decide the right course of action. Should she go to the police and identify the man, thus exposing her adultery and shattering two families? Or should she remain quiet and well behaved, as she has throughout her childhood and frozen marriage? Ginnie’s passivity is a bit implausible for a therapist, yet Leroy delineates her diffidence in a deliberately hypnotic, masterly fashion. Her quiet, self-assured narrative voice delivers tremendous psychological depth and emotional resonance.
Old-fashioned, realistic fiction that aims to challenge rather than mollify.