When Edith Ashby returns to the family farm to visit her brother, Alfred, an aging photographer, she enters a rapidly vanishing world of stately homes and mannered gentility. While brooding over her daughter's inclination to follow her own path of rebellious independence and failed marriages, Edith comes face to face with the past as she encounters her first husband, old neighbors, and former friends. Edith and Alfred also come to grips with their relationship and the divergent paths they have followed. While Edith has led a famously purposeful life, serving as a Member of Parliament, a magistrate, and the founder of a progressive, cooperative nursery school, Alfred has abandoned his world travels and is now content to remain quietly in the old family home with its books, treasures, and picture-strewn attic. Best known in the States for her earlier novel, The Shooting Party, Colegate offers a well-heeled cast of characters and a measured pace that will appeal to fans of Joanna Trollope and Mary Wesley.DBarbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, Ont. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
After a decade's hiatus, it's a pleasure to have another finely wrought, elegant novel by British writer Colegate (The Shooting Party; The Summer of the Royal Visit). In this quiet but resonating narrative, Edith Ashby pays a winter visit to her brother, Alfred, a reclusive photographer who lives in their family house in the Mendip hills in rural England. Restless, briskly efficient Edith has gone through two marriages, several careers and one term as a member of Parliament. She plans to convert one of the former estate farm buildings (now owned by a perpetually adolescent sportsman) into a country extension of her language school. This idea comes to nothing, but beneath the mundane events of Edith's two-week stay, she and Alfred are flooded with memories of their lives until this point in their middle age. The result is a beautifully textured, immensely absorbing character study set within the specifics of time and place, and constituting a social history of England from the 1970s to the early '90s. As both siblings reflect on their defining experiencesDAlfred, in particular, still has not come to terms with the suicide of the troubled woman he adoredDColegate employs a varied cast of background characters who, in addition to their fully dimensional portrayals, provide insight into Britain's still potent class system. In Colegate's assured hands, the natural landscape is rendered as clearly as her characters' interior landscapes, and she accomplishes this in a slim text remarkable for its lucidity, humor and precise observation. Readers of Margaret Drabble and A.S. Byatt will appreciate this meticulously realized, moving tale. (Jan. 1) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.