Best Book of the Week!
I would normally not give away something important that happens well into a novel, but the book blurb openly presents it as the novel’s central conflict. The Norths are an affectionate and happy family with little to discontent them in post-World War I England. Avery enjoys his work as a partner in a publishing firm and is a loving husband and father. He dotes on his daughter Anne especially. Ellen loves her family and her garden. Although she perhaps does too much for her family, she enjoys it. Hugh is serving his term in the army but can’t wait to get out and work at his father’s firm. Fifteen-year-old Anne loves her family and especially her horse.
The only small annoyance in the family’s life is Avery’s mother, who is critical and discontented, wanting more attention than the busy family can provide. But she soon solves her own problem by hiring a companion, a French girl named Louise Lanier.
Louise is a selfish and discontented young woman who is fleeing the end of an affair in which she was felt to be socially inferior to her lover and unworthy of marrying him. Eventually, she sets her sights on Avery, heedless of any destruction she may wreak with her harmful intentions and toxic personality.
I spent the first half of this novel entranced by this perceptive and layered novel and the last third in tears. The characters are wonderfully realized. Perhaps Louise’s character lacks a little nuance, but we have all met people who are able to justify their own bad behavior to themselves. This is a great book that should have had more attention since it was written in the 1930’s.