Simon & Schuster, £7.99
A Gathering Storm, By Rachel Hore
Monday 07 November 2011
From Daphne du Maurier to Mary Wesley, the coves and headlands of Cornwall have provided the setting for some of fiction's most stirring melodramas.
Rachel Hore revisits Camomile Lawn territory with a classic wartime saga tracing the fortunes of an old West Country family swept up in the horrors of the Blitz.
When young photographer Lucy Cardwell goes through the papers of her deceased father, she comes across a picture of a great-uncle she never knew she had. Wondering why this man has been written out of family history, she pays a visit to her father's childhood home, Carlyon, on the south Cornish coast. It's here that she becomes friends with Beatrice, an elderly widow for whom the past is still very much alive.
We learn that as a girl, Beatrice was a frequent visitor to Carlyon and fast friends with Lucy's grandmother, the aristocratic Angelina Wincanton. Then, one summer, she falls in love with Rafe, a young man she rescues when his boat capsizes. As Beatrice's story continues, it's clear that these halcyon days by the sea will be short-lived. Churchillian clouds are gathering and the lives of Beatrice, Rafe and Angelina will be blown dramatically off-course.
Hore's novel combines a firm grasp of social history with a real empathy for her characters' predicaments. With the outbreak of war, the action moves to London, where Beatrice is recruited as a Fany nurse. Despite her secret passion for Rafe, Beatrice, like so many of her generation, experiments with new ways of living.
While lacking the sexual sophistication of Wesley's ingénues, Hore's star-crossed lovers are soon exposed to their share of betrayal and trauma. The most compelling section of the novel takes place in France when Beatrice is parachuted into occupied territory as an SOE agent. Here, she once again encounters Rafe.
Drawing from the real stories of secret agents Violette Szabo and Odette Churchill, Hore's novel doesn't attempt to reinvent the past, but succeeds in making familiar scenarios feel fresh. The romantic resolutions are never quite what you expect and, back in the present, Lucy prepares for some interesting revelations in an old-fashioned novel that doesn't ration its pleasures.
Order for £7.59 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigourfilm
Bannatyne leaves Dragon's DenTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 2 Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
- 3 Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014: In defence of Mesut Ozil - the Arsenal midfielder works magic in the shadows
- 4 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
- 5 Tony Abbott embarrasses Australia by praising Japanese WWII military, ‘getting on the sake’ and posing for ‘crotch-shot’ photo opportunity
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
British jihadist calls for 'flag of Islam' over Downing Street and Buckingham Palace
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories