The Ophelia Girls

Jane Healey. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-0-358-10641-8
Healey (The Animals at Lockwood Manor) captivates with a dark and sensual novel that reveals the inner lives of two teenage girls a generation apart. Middle-aged Ruth Hawkins moves her family into the ramshackle country house in Kent, England, where she spent her childhood, after the death of her estranged father. Her 17-year-old daughter Maeve’s cancer is in remission, and she hopes the family can heal together. But returning to the house—and offering the guest house to Stuart, a friend from her youth and now a celebrated photographer—brings back memories of the summer of 1973, a time tinged by love and tragedy. Then, Ruth and her friends were called “the Ophelia Girls” by their parents for posing in maudlin Polaroid photos inspired by pre-Raphaelite paintings and tragic heroines. Now, Maeve, bearing a striking resemblance to the youthful Ruth, secretly agrees to pose for Stuart in a series of suggestive portraits. Imagery of drowning and of natural cycles of bloom and decay suffuses Maeve’s narrative and Ruth’s flashbacks—and can feel overdone—but Healey excels at probing her characters’ psyches. Ruth longs to be a good mother, while Maeve vacillates between not wanting to grow up and wanting Stuart to see her as mature. In the end, this develops into a lush, seductive portrait of desire. Agent: Hayley Steed, Madeleine Milburn Literary. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 07/16/2021
Release date: 08/10/2021
Genre: Fiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-358-10526-8
Audio Product - 978-0-358-44989-8
Compact Disc - 304 pages - 978-0-358-44982-9
MP3 CD - 978-1-7999-6883-2
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