Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Fate of Mary Rose

Title: The Fate of Mary Rose

Author: Caroline Blackwood

Year of publication: 1981, Penguin edition 1988

Back cover blurb: Raped and horribly murdered, the body of ten-year-old Maureen Sutton is eventually discovered in woods near a sleepy commuter village in Kent.
   With nerve, inspiration and deadpan brilliance Caroline Blackwood draws us into the village to witness the macabre and devastating effects of this story on a local family: the historian Rowan Anderson, his wife Cressida and their sickly daughter, Mary Rose.

Reading reveals: Much of this book by hard-drinking journalist and Lucian Freud wife/muse Blackwood (she is the girl with enormous eyes who stares out from much of his early work) is remarkable.  The protagonist's misanthropy is unflinchingly presented to the reader, while his wife is a quietly terrifying model of obsessive selfishness.  The hysteria that grips the village is also unnerving, with previously sane characters whipped up into a frenzy of bloodlust.
   Unfortunately, Blackwood ballses it all up spectacularly at the conclusion, with plot threads she'd taken pains to establish just chapters before completely ignored, and events rushing to an unsatisfyingly limp finish.  Deadlines, eh?

Random paragraphs: 'I took her to a Greek restaurant in Soho.  She wouldn't drink anything except water.  She chose to eat only the cheapest things she saw on the menu.  "Why don't you have something more exciting?" I asked her.
   "I don't need excitement," she said.'


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