Drowning Rose By Marika Cobbold BLOOMSBURY, £11.99 Order for £10.89 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Romance flirts with dark depths
Since her popular debut, Guppies for Tea, Swedish-born Marika Cobbold has established a reputation for astute and acerbic romances. In her seventh novel, she examines the consequences of a girlhood tragedy. If the subject matter is not cheery, it is lit up by offbeat wit and charm.
Eliza Cummings has never recovered from the guilt she feels over the death of her best friend, Rose, who was found drowned in a school lake. Having shelved her ambitions of becoming an artist, Eliza now works as a ceramics restorer at the V&A, fixing pots as her own marriage crumbles. But one December night, she receives a phone call from Rose's father – a voice that takes her back 25 years, to the night of the accident – inviting her to visit him in Sweden.
It is with some trepidation that Eliza travels to snowy Gothenburg to confront the man she has spent a lifetime avoiding. Here, in a fairy-tale house of "honey-wood" floors and blazing stoves, she is forced to share her memories of Rose and their last days together. Frail and fading, Ian intimates that he has been visited by his daughter – or at least by her otherworldly presence – and is anxious to make amends. For the penitent Eliza, his forgiveness signals the road to recovery, and even the possibility of a new love life.
Alternating between past and present and England and Sweden, Cobbold introduces us to the closeted world of the Lakeland Academy for Girls. Among Rose and Eliza's classmates is scholarship girl, Sandra Cassidy, a heavy-set suburbanite with good reason to resent her peers' coltish charms and superior wardrobes. Excluded from the Princesses' inner circle, Sandra starts to plot the kind of histrionic revenge that could only be cooked up in the head of a hormonally-compromised teen.
A dextrous storyteller, Cobbold knits together Eliza's hysterical past and a more conventional drama about finding Mr Right. Central to the schoolgirls' fantasy life is the Nordic folkloric figure of Nacken, a beautiful naked boy with a "tumble of dark hair" and a fiddle who is said to inhabit Sweden's lakes and rivers. It is Nacken who proves instrumental in luring Rose to her watery grave.
A novel about growing up with remorse and guilt, this very readable psychodrama flirts with the more gothic expressions of loss. With astringent insights into the female psyche, Cobbold is at pains to show how even the "highly breakable" can be rendered "useful and beautiful" once again.
Arts & Ents blogs
Kate Simko is a lady who has constantly worked towards to pushing herself musically. Though she make...
The Photography Blog: ‘Control Order House’ by Edmund Clark – Photographing our response to terrorism
Recent events in Boston have served as a painful reminder of the threat posed by terrorism. In Contr...
I’ve not heard many bands that had quite the same kick as Pendulum did. Their unbelievable fusion of...
- 1 The ‘Beverly Hills’ of Surrey pays more income tax than big cities of the North
- 2 Tottenham to smash pay scale with £150,000-a-week contract in attempt to tie Gareth Bale to club
- 3 'Revenge porn' is no longer a niche activity which victimises only celebrities - the law must intervene
- 4 The moral case on tax avoidance is overwhelming - and we all know Google wants to do the right thing
- 5 Sam Wallace: The second coming of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea will be a reunion that can only end in tears
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.