Drowning People

Drowning People

4.6 15
by Richard Mason
     
 

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With a startling confession of murder, the narrator of The Drowning People draws the reader into a mesmerizing tale of love, violent betrayal, and bitter revenge. From the moment he first spots young, beautiful Ella Marcourt on a beach in Hyde Park, twenty-two-year-old James Farrell is caught in the enveloping vise of first love. At their second encounter, he learns… See more details below

Overview

With a startling confession of murder, the narrator of The Drowning People draws the reader into a mesmerizing tale of love, violent betrayal, and bitter revenge. From the moment he first spots young, beautiful Ella Marcourt on a beach in Hyde Park, twenty-two-year-old James Farrell is caught in the enveloping vise of first love. At their second encounter, he learns of her engagement to another; but, undeterred, he daydreams of rescuing her from the expectations of family and upper-class British society. When the two of them embark on a passionate affair, the intoxicating intimacy of their stolen moments together convinces them that nothing and no one else matters, that the intensity of their love can justify all their actions and guarantee their happiness. But they are swept along by a force they cannot control. In the ultimate test of loyalty, Ella forces James to betray his best friend; and a chain of events is set off which leads inexorably to a violent and tragic end.

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Editorial Reviews

Trudi Miller Rosenblum
This compelling tale grabs the listener's attention from the first sentence, in which the elderly narrator admits that he has murdered his wife of 45 years---yet her death was ruled a suicide, and no one suspects him at all. From that intriguing opening, he goes back to relate the story from the start, when he was naive, 17-year old aspiring violinist who became enchanted by a brash, young American heiress. Many Gothic twists and turns follow: a wealthy, respected family, known both for its palatial ancestral home and for a streak of hereditary insanity; look-alike female cousins, one British, one American; secret loves; broken engagements; betrayal; suicide; murder. Jarvis is phenomenal as always, evoking both the innocence of the young narrator and the world-weary experience of the older man telling tale. His voice creates distinct characters with ease.
Billboard
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This precocious debut novel by Mason, an undergrad at Oxford University, opens on a catchy note: a man confessing to the murder of his wife. As the basis for a spoken audio, this provides a creepy and convincing structure. Jarvis, a British actor with a distinguished career as an audio narrator, capitalizes spiritedly on the moody conceit. The story unfolds into a larger tale of a life lived among elite English society. James Farrell, an Oxfordian violinist, relates his story of passion and murder in stylized tones, rising to gothic flourish when the events get especially hot and heavy. He tells how, at age 22, he fell for the beautiful stranger Ella Harcourt. This was the unrequited love that would eventually destroy him--leading him to marry, then murder, her sister. Now, as an old man, he casts a coldly objective eye on the path that delivered him to his terrible destiny. Posing as high literature, this slyly low, hothouse novel of morals, manners and murder plays especially wicked and fun when read aloud. Based on the 1999 Warner hardcover. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This stunning novel of suspense, love, loss, and lies concerns James Farrell, a 70-year-old man who confesses to killing his wife of more than 40 years. Mason, a 21-year-old Oxford student, has captured the tone of a man weary with a lifetime of regret, mistakes, and missed opportunities. After Farrell confesses to the murder that he has successfully passed off as a suicide, he takes the listener through the life and the events that led to his act, the foundation of which was laid 50 years ago when he met Ella Harcourt, his wife's cousin. With cold and clear vision, he admits the mistakes he and Ella made due to youth and the wild intoxication of a consuming love. Just as accomplished and riveting is Tim Piggott-Smith's narration of this tale replete with complex relationships. He shifts times and ages of the characters effortlessly and is flawless in his portrayal of both emotion and personalities. Highly recommended.--Melody A. Moxley, Rowan P.L., Salisbury, NC Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Tobin Harshaw
The latest contender in the nihilism sweepstakes...
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A 20-year Oxford student's precocious debut: dazzling in its inventive plot, persuasive in its mannerisms, and much too susceptible to mistaking agile chatter for deep wisdom. Mason has created a grabby premise: in an effort to explain why James Farrell has just killed Sarah, his wife of four decades, the now 70-year-old recalls the privileged, wainscoted, chandeliered, wealthy England of his youth—way back in the1990s. The story begins in 1994, with just a few closing pages devoted to the "present" in mid-21st century. James sees enigmatic Ella Harewood meditatively smoking on a park bench and falls immediately in love. Though she is engaged to be married, Ella discovers she shares James's covert disgust with convention, and together they conspire to upset the wedding plans. Though educated and raised in America, Ella confides to James that she stands to inherit Selon Castle and its island, a family property Ella's cousin Sarah yearns to inhabit. Conventional, restrained, and proper in the English way, Sarah develops an ardent jealousy of her spoiled cousin. Worse, Ella's groom is the one love of her life. The wedding is indeed disrupted, and Ella requires James to prove his love by setting in motion a series of events that end with the death of his best friend. James is stricken by grief and, after Ella apparently murders her father, he marries Sarah. Years later, on the eve of his 70th birthday, James discovers the cruel secret that leads to Sarah's death. Throughout, our protagonist considers the nature of time and memory, guilt and sin, etc., in pointless musings that impede the progress of an otherwise compelling, artfully revealed plot. Mason's prose isunremarkable, as is his distinctly unfascinating attempt at "larger themes," but his storytelling is solid and his sense of intrigue nicely developed. (Author tour)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780770428518
Publisher:
Random House of Canada, Limited
Publication date:
03/28/2000
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.72(h) x 0.99(d)

Read an Excerpt

My wife of more than forty-five years shot herself yesterday afternoon.
At least that is what the police assume, and I am playing the part of grieving widower with enthusiasm and success, Life with Sarah has schooled me in self-deception, which I find — as she did — to be an excellent training in the deceiving of others. Of course, I know she did nothing of the kind. My wife was far too sane, far too rooted in the present to think of harming herself. In my opinion she never gave a thought to what she had done. She was incapable of guilt.
It was I who killed her.
And my reasons were not those you might expect. We were not unhappily married, you see; far from it. Sarah was — until yesterday — an excellent and loving wife, for she was conscientious, in some respects, to her core. It's funny that, isn't it? How completely contrasting standards can coexists in a person without seeming to trouble them. My wife was, at least outwardly, never anything but dutiful, correct, serene. 'She gave of herself tirelessly in the true service of this island and its people"; that's what the chaplain will say of her when the time comes; and he will be right. Sarah had many virtues, chief amongst which was an unflinching sense of duty made graceful by serene execution. That is what she will be remembered for. And her serenity was not only for herself: she had a way of making the lives of those around her serene also — serene, ordered, and secure. It was security on her terms, of course; but I would have welcomed it on anybody's terms when I married her, and that has held true over forty-five years.
If you knew me, you wouldn't think me at all the murdering type. Indeed I don't consider myself a violent man, and I don't suppose that my having killed Sarah will change that. I have learned my faults over seventy years on this earth, and violence — physical, at least — is not among them. I killed my wife because justice demanded it; and by killing her I have at last seen a sort of justice reopen. My obsession with sin and punishment, laid to rest so imperfectly so long ago, is returning. I find myself wondering what right I had to judge Sarah, and how much more harshly I will be judged for having judged her too; judged her and punished her in a way I have never been judged or punished myself.
It might not have come this; I might never have known. But Sarah's inexorable sense of wifely duty exposed her. If only she'd been slightly less considerate, slightly less conscientious, she might not be dead now. She was organizing a surprise birthday party for my seventieth birthday, you see; not that the arrangements for it could have remained secret for long on this island. Nor did they. I've known that something was afoot for a month or more. And I was touched. But I'm particular about parties. I don't like the tenants invited; and I don't like some of Sarah's more fawningly agreeable friends. So it was understandable that I should want to consult a guest list so that by hinting at least I could have made my wishes known.
I chose last Monday to search her desk because my wife was out, supervising the extension to the ticket office. And quite by chance I found the drawer she has kept it in all these years.
Even now, with her dead and nearly buried, the arrogance of it chills me.

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