From the Publisher
Marvellous . . . Funny, subtle, sympatheticOBSERVER
One of the wisest and most versatile of our novelistsCHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH, GUARDIAN
Nina Bawden's readers should be numbered like the sands of the sea . . . This is a wonderfully satisfying novel, wise, tolerant, wittyGUARDIAN
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bawden's second novel (after Circles of Deceit ) is pervaded by an acute sense of menace. Its frightened protagonist, Fanny Pye, is a London widow suffering from partial amnesia and agoraphobia after witnessing a violent crime. Strolling home from a neighborhood restaurant, Fanny sees an altercation among three young men which leaves one of them dead and another--called Jake--fleeing the scene. Knocked unconscious by the third man, Fanny comes to in the hospital with a sketchy memory of the episode; repeated prodding from her two grown children as well as the authorities does little to jog her recall. The son and daughter attempt to cope with their aging and now ailing mother when she comes home from the hospital full of talk about giving away great sums of money to an old family friend. Fanny herself must find a way to cope with a new neighbor, a strange young man named Jake who seems vaguely familiar. Sharply observed and drawn with precision, Fanny's troubles and their eventual resolution make a compelling read. (Dec.)
Bawden has written a deeply sympathetic story of a woman attempting to come to grips with old age. When sixtyish widow Fanny Pye is mugged after witnessing a street crime, she finds her loss of memory a frightening portent of things to come. No one will take her seriously; her fears that she may have recognized her mugger are treated as irrational. In effect, friends and family have ``just lumped her into a sack labelled OLD WOMEN,'' but Fanny fights back. Characterization shines here: Bawden shows a sure hand in her careful selection of telling detail as Fanny, an ordinary woman, becomes extraordinary in her refusal to allow society to strip her of individuality merely because she is old. Also well drawn are secondary characters such as Fanny's anxious children and a canny old flame. Thoughtful readers will be moved by Fanny's struggle. Recommended.-- Beth Ann Mills, New Rochelle P.L., N.Y.
Bawden continues her preoccupation with familial Circles of Deceit (1987), here examining the concerns of middle-aged children for their mother, who has, violently and abruptly, become a problem to be solvedwhile the mother battles through a thicket of difficulties, alone. There is love, but also sprouting amid the children's loyalty are telltale tendrils of greed and a monstrous self-pity. Fanny Pye, 60-ish widow of a career diplomat, confronted three young toughs who had beaten another man senseless on a London street, and was herself knocked unconscious. Lying in the hospital, with children Isobel and Harry standing by in shock, Fanny can't remember the incident ("memory had its own logic; a code which was hard to break sometimes")but she returns to her substantial home (all her husband left her) to reclaim it and herself. Her children worry about a companion. Memory, however"a dimly seen cloud"holds a surprise, as eventually floating up from Fanny's store of buried nightmares is a chance remark revealing a nasty crime. Meanwhile, Fanny has been making decisions that give the children shivers. Will she sell the house and give the money to a friend for her house? And what of her single contemporary Tom, who seems to be a permanent fixture? After all, Fanny's house, both children agree, represents "family money," and therefore is not Fanny's to dispose of. (Among friends and neighbors there are echoes of such trans-generational conflictswith the middle-aged frustrated and harried, and the old careening off in their own way.) Fanny is almost defeated by her secret knowledge of a murder and by her own panic, but she conquers fear, and, in an amusing close,flies off on a holiday plane leaving Harry bothered, bemused, self-deceived, and drawing the wrong conclusions. As in Walking Naked (1981) and Circles of Deceit, Bawden's contemporary truths, laced with a dark humor, fitand pinch.