"This is the story of a teenager at several turning points in her life - a richly detailed and suspenseful novel about various kinds of courtship gone wrong. The day Tom Hepple returns to the English village of Allnorthover, he stops at the local reservoir, beneath which lies his childhood home. Looking for a sign, he sees a girl walking on water. Not just any girl - it is Mary George, an uncommonly sympathetic seventeen-year-old, who seems at first to be more important to others than she is to herself. As near-sighted Mary tries to locate ...
"This is the story of a teenager at several turning points in her life - a richly detailed and suspenseful novel about various kinds of courtship gone wrong. The day Tom Hepple returns to the English village of Allnorthover, he stops at the local reservoir, beneath which lies his childhood home. Looking for a sign, he sees a girl walking on water. Not just any girl - it is Mary George, an uncommonly sympathetic seventeen-year-old, who seems at first to be more important to others than she is to herself. As near-sighted Mary tries to locate herself in the world, struggling with growing up, falling in love, and breaking away, Tom makes her the focus of his attempt to regain his past. Secrets and misapprehensions surface as the village reveals its stories and unwittingly helps Tom toward the catastrophic conclusion of his plan." "Mary George of Allnorthover takes place in Essex in the 1970s - a small, orderly world disrupted by power cuts, petrol shortages, and drought. The brash color and noise of punk rock is infiltrating the disco in the village hall, and London is getting closer all the time. Mary George is as caught up in all this change as she is in her own history. Her story brings to new life the great themes of family, property, inheritance, and belonging. The traditions of the nineteenth-century novel are both adhered to and subverted in Lavinia Greenlaw's remarkable first book of prose."--BOOK JACKET.
A subtle and moving portrait of stormy adolescence.
A poet who has turned her hand to fiction, Greenlaw hasn't forgotten her roots. The language of her novel has the precise quality of verse, while the closely observed details of Allnorthover and its many peculiar inhabitants, relayed with frequent flashes of humor and grace, are delivered with deft hints of the mock epic.
— New York Times
A teenaged girl's coming of age and the return of a small-town madman make for strange but not altogether unwelcome bedfellows in this affecting debut. Camptown is a nowhere English city described by poet Greenlaw as "awkward and diminished." It's the kind of place that has plenty of history—dating back to the Roman occupation—but none of it is especially interesting. As unassuming as it is, however, it's where 17-year-old Mary George, from the small nearby village of Allnorthover, spends most of her time. Mary seems more awkward than she is—with a ragged, boyish haircut, glasses, and clunky outfits—and her interesting mixture of adolescent confusion and remarkably resilient spirit make her an engaging protagonist for a story without much of a narrative center. The outside element used to prod things along is the return to town of Tom Hepple, a lifelong lunatic. Walking by the reservoir that now covers his old family home, Tom is convinced that he sees Mary George walking on the water. Even though the townspeople dismiss any worries about his potential for violence, Mary's mother recognizes the critical part of his personality right away: "He was a force, a hurricane, sweeping things up, breaking down doors, sucking people in and under." Tom's attempts to readjust to Allnorthover life, though, are put on the back burner by the author, who devotes many of her words to rich descriptions of Mary's episodic, mostly rudderless life: smoking dope with her best friend Billy, hanging out at the record store, attempting to dye her clothes black (a stunt that comically backfires), and fumbling toward a relationship with a boy named Daniel. The '70s setting is richlyevoked, with the threat of energy and water shortages looming over daily events and the raw, slashing sounds of punk rock cutting through the local youth with a fiery intensity. While many will appreciate Greenlaw's intimate portrayal of Mary's life, the focus here is diffused by less-clearly-realized investigations into her family's past and the recurring figure of Tom—who will drag us toward an ending we didn't need or want.
From the Publisher
A finely constructed first novel.
The New York Times Book Review