Set after the First World War in suburban London, Frances and her mother are having a rough go of it. Her two brothers were lost to that conflict and not long after her father died, revealing serious financial issues. To keep their home, the women must take in “paying guests”, a young married couple. Eventually Frances embarks on a torrid affair with the wife, Lillian. It doesn’t end well. Though I loathe the over use of the term “spoiler”, I respect its power. There will be no spoilers here. To give too much detail of the actions of these characters and the outcome of their liaison would surely rob other readers of that frisson of discovery. Clearly the book was well researched (as the afterword attests), which got a little tiresome but I did find that Ms.Waters has a knack for period writing. It’s an exceedingly well-written book. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about these characters and 568 pages was a painfully long time to spend with them. I even tried the audiobook and while I was delighted with Juliet Stevenson’s delivery, it still boiled down to the fact that I just couldn’t get emotionally invested in their lives and deeds.
I wanted to like this book. Based on other works of this writer, it seemed a forgone conclusion. As I slogged through this thing, I kept thinking I was missing something. I hadn’t read any reviews before I picked this up, so after I was more than halfway through with the book, I did some poking around and found that indeed it was very well received. Seeing it described as a “thriller”, “bewitching” and “unputdownable” I can’t help but feel we were not reading the same book. Perhaps you will have better luck.