The Edge of Eden

The Edge of Eden

4.5 2
by Helen Benedict
     
 

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In 1960, when her husband, Rupert, a British diplomat, is posted to the remote Seychelle Islands in the Indian Ocean, Penelope is less than thrilled. But she never imagined the danger that awaited her family there. Her sun-kissed children run barefoot on the beach and become enraptured by the ancient magic, or grigri, in the tropical colonial outpost. Rupert

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Overview

In 1960, when her husband, Rupert, a British diplomat, is posted to the remote Seychelle Islands in the Indian Ocean, Penelope is less than thrilled. But she never imagined the danger that awaited her family there. Her sun-kissed children run barefoot on the beach and become enraptured by the ancient magic, or grigri, in the tropical colonial outpost. Rupert, meanwhile, falls under the spell of a local beauty who won’t stop until she gets what she wants.

Desperate to save her marriage, Penelope turns to black magic, exposing her family to the island’s sinister underbelly. Ultimately, Penny and her family suffer unimaginable casualties, rendering their lives profoundly and forever changed. Helen Benedict’s acerbic wit and lush descriptions serve up a page-turner brimming with jealousy, sex, and witchcraft in a darkly exotic Eden.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Not since Lord of the Flies has a novelist written with such perceptiveness about the potential for harm that lurks within the innocence of childhood.”—Paula Sharp, author of Crows over a Wheatfield

"A wonderful novel and a true page-turner, a vivid story."—Joan Silber, author of The Size of the World

“Reminiscent of Evelyn Waugh in its biting satire and Somerset Maugham. . . . A book that both moved and surprised me until the very last word.”—Mary Morris, author of Revenge

“An armchair traveler's delight, Benedict's novel is an amusingly poignant look at the British abroad in the spirit of Evelyn Waugh.”—Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
Benedict (The Lonely Soldier) chronicles a year in the life of a foolish but surprisingly sympathetic British family that relocates to the equatorial paradise of the Seychelles, located between India and Africa. In 1960, Rupert Weston accepts a post in the remote British colony without consulting his wife, Penelope, and his decision isn't well received. Trying to adjust to life on the island chain, Penelope turns to Marguerite, the family's kind and trustworthy local servant, for help with daughters Zara and Chloe. She soon realizes that the Seychelles are a “dumping ground for incipient failures” and their wives, who turn to alcohol and adultery for entertainment. Weak, malleable Rupert is soon seduced by the cunning Creole Joelle Lagrenade, but Penelope won't give up her husband without a fight. As the children run feral, Penelope asks Marguerite to show her grigri, Seychelles magic. She consults local witchdoctor Monsieur Adonis, while Joelle turns to Madame Hélène, a fortuneteller, and their combined magical efforts culminate in near tragedy and certain loss. An armchair traveler's delight, Benedict's novel is an amusingly poignant look at the British abroad in the spirit of Evelyn Waugh. (Nov.)
Library Journal
In the 1960s, a government transfer brings the Weston family from Britain to the Seychelles, beautiful islands in the western Indian Ocean whose inhabitants speak French Creole and whose culture leans intensely on a belief in black magic. Unfortunately for Rupert and Penelope, what had been a happy marriage begins to falter in this exotic environment, even as daughters Zara and Chloe begin to flourish. In particular, eight-year-old Zara is enamored of the local witchcraft, with its reliance on spells and curses. When bright and spunky Penelope begins to realize that Rupert is seeing another woman, she sinks further into despair. Disliking her local British compatriots, she confides in Marguerite, her wise, shrewd Seychellois housekeeper, who also acts as the children's nana, and befriends an interesting American couple there to do research. VERDICT Benedict, an author of both fiction and nonfiction (Sailor's Wife; Virgin or Vamp), offers distinctive cross-cultural insights as well as a cadre of satiric and fascinating characters, and the result is a story that is both touching and humorous. Highly recommended.—Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ\
Kirkus Reviews
Earthly paradise turns a British marriage hellish in this self-conscious, psychologically insecure novel from Benedict (The Opposite of Love, 2007, etc.). There's plenty of sin in Eden, in the form of the British Crown Colony of the Seychelles, mainly populated by the impoverished descendants of slaves. Minor Colonial Office employee Rupert has been sent to report on the economy of these Indian Ocean islands, a posting that requires the reluctant uprooting of wife Penelope and daughters Zara and Chloe. The novel opens with a sea voyage in 1960. Rupert, who "did not consider himself the philandering type," flirts with another woman while Penelope is felled by seasickness; toddler Chloe, victim of her eight-year-old sister's bullying, goes missing but then reappears without explanation. A pattern of inconsistencies and reverses continues on the island. First Penelope, previously happily married and faithful, has a grim affair with the governor. Then Rupert succumbs to his secretary Joelle, a strikingly lovely local woman who is both manipulative and sincerely affectionate. She eventually succeeds in breaking up Rupert's marriage, then gets pregnant. Witch doctors and grigri (island magic) feature prominently as Zara plots to reunite her parents, and Joelle uses spells to drive Penelope back to England. Shifts of motivation dog the sometimes farcical story line until the novel turns darker, as the grigri finally claims a victim. Despite moments of lyricism, more sensational than subtle.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781569478585
Publisher:
Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
11/01/2010
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

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