The River Within

Karen Powell. Europa, $22.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-60945-615-3
Powell’s grim, moody debut investigates the death by drowning of a working-class young man in 1950s Yorkshire. The body of Danny Masters, who faced conscription into the armed forces, is discovered in the River Wharfe. First to see him is Lennie Fairweather, a recent high school graduate living with her father in the Gatekeeper’s Cottage of Richmond Hall. Danny had been infatuated with Lennie, but she has eyes for Richmond heir Alexander, who is given to addressing her with questions such as, “Why are you dressed like such a whore?” Alexander has an equally fraught relationship with his recently widowed mother, Venetia, who he believes is romantically entangled with Alexander’s uncle James. As the various characters debate whether Danny died by suicide or accident, the details gradually trickle out for the reader. Heavy-handed references to Hamlet abound (“Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,” reads the epigraph), and by the time the cause of Danny’s death has been revealed, several other characters end up dead as well. Powell has a keen understanding of the restrictions imposed by class and gender in postwar England, and the narrative really moves, though the love triangle plot’s conundrums are dealt with a bit too conveniently. Still, Powell’s sharp insights keep this afloat. Agent: Samuel Hodder, the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency. (Dec.)
Reviewed on : 12/16/2020
Release date: 12/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
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