Order for £13.49 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
An Inventory of Heaven, By Jane Feaver. Corsair, £14.99
Dysfunctional relationships have been a staple of Jane Feaver's previous work. Her debut novel, According to Ruth, centred on a girl's view of her parents' disintegrating marriage, and Love Me Tender, glimpsed the private lives of inhabitants of a Devon village. Feaver is adroit at capturing claustrophobia and community, with the wistful lives of those seeking salvation in others.
For her third book, Feaver returns to Devon. The section headings, poem titles by Larkin, Heaney, Milton, Blake and Pound, hint at the hopes and longing explored in this novel. Events flit between contemporary times and the postwar decades. The sections set in the present are narrated by 70-year-old Mavis, who lives in a cottage to which she was evacuated during the Second World War.
Having returned to her parents in London aged seven, Mavis moved back when aged 25. Her settled routine is ruffled by the arrival of a single mother, Eve, who is linked to someone she knew in the village decades previously. Through flashbacks, the fragile web that binds the past and present is dismantled strand by strand. Tragedy lurks in the past.
Feaver's speciality is capturing the exquisite pain of spurned love with a sensitivity that manages to be understated yet anguished. When young Mavis falls for a married man, "in a second I was annihilated, the creamy blossoms scorched brown, rotted on the bough". Later, asked to a dance by a man she has had a crush on, she waits with heart-fluttering expectation, and is euphoric when her date turns up, but at the door of the dance, as he heads off alone, "in a flash I realised that he was going to abandon me".
Yet there is also mordant humour aplenty. A gormless man "had an oily fringe and very large lips, apparently too heavy to open". The moment before alcohol-induced vomiting is captured expertly: "There was custard in my mouth. I could feel the weight of the liquid I carried, like one of those tribeswomen with a pitcher on her head." Accomplished in every way, this novel is a true delight.
Arts & Ents blogs
There is a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refle...
The opening titles squeal ‘Never Can Say Goodbye…’. Oh Lord how I wish I could heave this series off...
Even though there was a complete absence of our favourite odd couple Brienne and Jaime, we got anoth...
- 1 'He was lucky he didn't die' - George Michael fell out of speeding car onto M1 motorway, according to eye witness
- 2 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 3 After woman sells virginity for $780,000, here are the results of our prostitution survey
- 4 Far-right French historian, 78-year-old Dominique Venner, commits suicide in Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage
- 5 'It was just like the movie Twister': Man survives Oklahoma tornado by taking refuge in horse stall
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.