An intriguing situation, seamless pacing, a rising sense of menace and a surprise ending bring Dunmore's new novel (after the well-received Talking to the Dead) into the winner's circle. British district judge Simone struggles as the family breadwinner, while her unemployed husband faces bankruptcy and takes care of their two boys. Keeping the family together in their remote seaside village is hard enough, but Simone's fragile world--also undermined by a childhood trauma--is threatened by the intrusion of her long-buried past. Michael, an American Vietnam veteran whom she met during a summer in the States, sends her an intense letter and copies of several photographs of them nude together. Then he arrives in her village, having decided to reconnect with the one person whose image he has nurtured over two decades, some of which was spent in a mental hospital. Dunmore intricately weaves past and present, bringing the experimental atmosphere of the 1970s to life as Simone reads Michael's letters and views the incriminating photographs taken by his war buddy, Calvin, whom she remembers as a constant unsettling presence. The indelible impression of a first true love contrasts with Simone's fierce desire to protect her family from what seems to be a blackmail plot. The novel's marsh-country setting, where bogs can swallow people whole, is a fearsome metaphor for a life abundant with insecurity and tension. This is a provocative tale, candid about the way past deeds and encounters can endanger present lives, casting shadows that can't be erased. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998 Release date: 06/01/1998 Genre: Fiction
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