An unusual ‘lost classic’ which deserves new readers! First published in 1957, this book reminded me a little of Jane Austen, Stella Gibbons and Muriel Spark.
Set in the mid-1930s, the book is narrated by Rachel, an 18-year-old art student. Recovering from illness, she goes to stay with a military family who used to live in India but who have taken a villa in Dinard, Brittany (France). She’s supposed to be a companion for the daughter, Thalia. However, as Rachel begins her first love affair with a young French man, Thalia’s jealousy threatens to derail Rachel’s happiness. I find it difficult to summarise the plot, it seems simple but I there are hidden depths. I’ll be thinking about it for a while! There are some intriguing characters, the setting is extremely atmospheric and the writing style is very interesting. I did notice that the word ‘angry’ or ‘angrily’ appears on almost every page! There are a lot of adverbs. It somehow works, maybe because Rachel is naive and headstrong, giving in easily to her moods. Another impressive element of this book is he surprisingly frank references to lesbians, periods and the differences between love and sex.
The 2016 edition from Dean Street Press includes an afterword from the author’s son, which reveals the autobiographical nature of this novel. Sadly, Frances Faviell (1905 – 59) died only two years after Thalia was published.