Jenny Eclair is a talented novelist. I’ve read two of her previous books – Moving and Life, Death and Vanilla Slices – and found them darkly humorous with a realistic perspective on issues such as family life, ageing, health and the differences between generations. Her latest novel, Inheritance, is in the same vein. I liked it very much.
The story uses flashbacks between the 1960s, 70s and 2018 to piece together a sad and dysfunctional family history. It involves an abandoned and adopted baby, domestic violence, tragic deaths, hedonistic parties and bitter secrets. Everything revolves around Kittiwake, a grand home in Cornwall which has been the scene of dreadful events but which has now been renovated and is about to host a birthday celebration. For the first few chapters, I was a little confused as to how all the characters were related, but I soon grasped who was who. Various characters are followed but the main focus is Bel (Annabel), a fifty-something discontented woman who despairs of her lazy family. Most of the characters are frightfully middle-class, darling, their lifestyles perfectly described.
What I enjoyed about this book is the writing style. The level of description is just right and Eclair has a winning way with words. The settings are also wonderful. I could see them so clearly. Another fabulous thing was the swinging sixties theme. Something else I loved was the unflinching attention to detail, the examination of our physical and emotional desires and reactions. This occasionally leads to some awkward paragraphs I’d rather not have encountered. I think this is a comedian’s trait, making us laugh in recognition of behaviour we rarely talk about in public.
I didn’t understand the epilogue. Maybe I missed something. I can’t discuss it without spoilers. Anyway, I recommend this book but I would say that Moving is my favourite of the three Eclairs I’ve read.
Thank you to the publisher Little, Brown for the advance copy via NetGalley. This book will be published on August 1st.