Phillips (A Distant Shore) spins a disturbing and tragic tale of a broken family in the north of England, sprawling across time and generations, and drawing inspiration from Wuthering Heights. The story begins by the docks of Liverpool as a seven-year-old boy "hovers protectively over his afflicted mother," a woman haunted by her time in the West Indian fields, abandoned by her lovers, and now nearing death. This ghastly introduction telegraphs a difficult path ahead in the modern story of Monica Johnson, a willful young Oxford University student, who rushes from her bully of a father, Ronald, an officious school master, into a marriage and children with Julius Wilson, an older history graduate student on a scholarship from his home country, an unnamed Carribbean island. The point of view shifts among Monica and her three children as the characters attempt to connect despite their self-destructive tendencies, notably anger sublimated into pride. Philips's use of not only the story of Heathcliff and Mr. Earnshaw but of the complicated home life of the Brontë sisters and their beloved failure of a brother will appeal to lovers of their canon. But, as well realized and evocative this story is, it's more gloom than romance on the moors. The book reverberates with pain and dislocation more gothic than any howling ghost. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/02/2015 Release date: 03/10/2015 Genre: Fiction
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