Theo and Matilda

Rachel Billington, Author HarperCollins Publishers $21.95 (346p) ISBN 978-0-06-016483-6
In this lavishly entertaining fiction, the British author of Loving Attitudes turns her fertile imagination to unfolding five psychologically astute love stories. Each features a different pair named Theo and Matilda, a different period of English history and a constant site, Abbeyfields, which evolves from a monastery to modern housing. Lovely Anglo-Saxon princess Matilda and boyish monk Theo, both burning with desire and guilt, quarry ancient Roman stones to build a medieval double cloister, later sacked by Viking raiders. A 16th-century Matilda weds ex-priest Theo and leads him to her Tudor manor (the monastery has been destroyed by the anti-Catholic zealots of Henry VIII). Most deeply realized are a pregnant Matilda in her sumptuous Victorian mansion of Abbeyfields Hall, managing seven children and an unruly, love-struck parson, and her hearty, bearded, 50-year-old Theo, explorer, naturalist and collector of exotic snakes. A generation later the edifice is a private insane asylum where Theo, a mad renegade priest, and frail, suicidal Matilda--both graying but irrepressible--become lovers and heal each other. At last, a contemporary wife and husband, full of hope, survey the houses and gardens that retain picturesque bits of the original ruins. Billington writes with exuberance, a seeming naivete that suggestively veils her gift for delineating violence and tragedy. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
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