The Standing Pool, By Adam Thorpe

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The Independent Culture

Adam Thorpe's latest novel enters cosy territory with the story of an English family's escape to rural France. Historians Nick and Sarah Mallinson are charmed by their new home, a remote Languedoc farmhouse.

The swimming-pool water may be as green as "lime jelly", but it's an improvement on their cramped Cambridge terrace. But then the resident gardener, loony Jean Luc, appears and the pastoral idyll starts to falter.

While Thorpe's evocation of the taciturn locals is spot-on, life with the Mallinsons and their precocious brood starts to grate.

Ancient history is muddying the waters, and the new arrivals are its unwitting victims. "Every life tends towards this murk", comments Nick. "It is all such a huge and continuous effort, retaining clarity, keeping it running clean."