Louise and Rebecca, good friends since their BBC days in Belfast, work for a film company and are scouring the south of England for a suitable location to shoot a movie about Elizabeth I. As they stumble across Wooldene House, they meet Diana and Henry, who own the property.
Diana, widowed, feels her life is slowly crumbling along with the house, and yearns for new romance. Diana spends her time looking after their aunt Lucy who, as she senses time is running out, begins the share the startling secrets in her past.
And Henry, retired from the Army after a stint in Northern Ireland, is increasingly drawn to Louise - but their shared history, which places them on opposite sides of the troubles - threatens them both...
A totally engrossing read
It's a marvellous read, I think Roisin McAuley's best yet - she's going from strength to strength. The characters walk off the page, the pacing is impeccable, I love the way she's woven so much pleasure in the ordinary things of life with the darkness of the Troubles, which she makes really hurt. Nothing was obvious,and I really liked the way she resolved the characters' problems, it was a tremendously skilful, satisfying conclusion. Plus all the places are so wonderfully described, you feel you're just walking there. It's a fantastic and memorable book. I just couldn't put it down.
Satisfying and thought provoking
A terrific read, the cleverly interwoven plots driven by a cast of beautifully drawn characters.
A film company attempts to get backers for a movie about Elizabeth I, the integrity of their story being challenged by every whim of the American distributors. A romance develops between Louise, from Belfast, and Henry who lives with his sister Diana at decrepit Wooldene Hall, the location for the film. But the difficult relationship between England and Ireland, and Louise and Henry's respective experiences of Northern Ireland's Troubles, threaten the relationship. Diana discovers how family honour can distort the truth. All the stuff of romance.
But the seemingly establishment figures of Henry and Diana are recusants, literally exhausted by centuries in which their family has protected its religion and sense of self, a neat counterpoint to Louise's Catholic family in Northern Ireland. McAuley tackles the aftermath of the Troubles coolly and sympathetically. The film making story includes a witty exposition of the rules of narrative, rules the author inevitably follows herself. McAuley gives her characters difficult moral dilemmas and they make some surprising choices. In posing these questions, against such an authentic background, she challenges us all to know who we are. A satisfying and thought provoking novel.