The River House: A Novel

The River House: A Novel

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by Margaret Leroy
     
 

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- The novel's story line revolves around a single moment that threatens to unravel a woman's entire life and will appeal to readers of Jane Hamilton, Sue Miller and Ann Packet.- "Postcards from Berlin, Leroy's previous novel, was a "New York Times Notable Book of the Year and is being developed by the BBC into a television drama.See more details below

Overview

- The novel's story line revolves around a single moment that threatens to unravel a woman's entire life and will appeal to readers of Jane Hamilton, Sue Miller and Ann Packet.- "Postcards from Berlin, Leroy's previous novel, was a "New York Times Notable Book of the Year and is being developed by the BBC into a television drama.

Editorial Reviews

Richard Lipez
Leroy elucidates Ginnie's moral conundrum beautifully. Although there is never much doubt as to what Ginnie will do, it's how she does it that provides considerable suspense.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In Leroy's second U.S. release (Postcards from Berlin), heroine Ginnie Holmes-a respected psychologist and mother of two-shakes up her comfy, middle-aged life by embarking on a passionate affair with a married man. The duo throw caution-and their bare behinds-to the wind every Thursday afternoon in trysts along deserted, woody banks of the Thames. As it gets colder outside, Ginnie and Will (aka Detective Inspector Hampden) seek privacy in an abandoned river house. One day, "entangled" inside with her "smoke and cinnamon" scented lover, Ginnie spies a suspicious-looking man by the river. Initially unnerved, she dismisses her reaction as projected guilt-until a woman is found murdered near that very spot. Thus begins the real conflict in this atmospheric love -story-cum-psychological thriller. Should Ginnie remain silent, potentially allowing a murderer to go free? Or should she speak up, and thereby expose her affair and ruin two marriages? As she frets over the decision, all the while juggling a career, an emotionally aloof husband, a difficult 16-year-old daughter and an ailing mother, Ginnie seems less a heroine and more a hapless fly caught in a moral spider web. Leroy manages to make Ginnie sympathetic-even though she isn't always likable-and her dilemma chillingly real. Agent, Kathleen Anderson. (June 21) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
English writer Leroy's serious, delicately composed second (after Postcards from Berlin, 2003) presents an unhappy London wife and mother with a moral dilemma. Ginnie Holmes's life unfolds with the same cautious reserve she adopts for most situations. In her mid-40s, she is a psychologist for troubled children, the mother of two young women ready to leave the nest (one headed to Oxford), and the wife of a self-absorbed Irish medieval literature professor with whom she hasn't had sex for years. Her life, like her house on the edge of London, "is half hidden." She bears deep scars from having witnessed her father batter her mother, memories that her sister, Ursula, will not discuss or even acknowledge. Enveloped by a sense of futility, especially regarding a traumatized patient she can't reach, Ginnie visits a detective to learn more about the child's case and ends up in a passionate, one-day-a-week affair with him. Will is also married and protective of his other life. Once, having sneaked into an abandoned river house to meet him, she observes from the window a strange man running along the bank as if searching for something. When she learns of a young woman's murder by the river and then recognizes the dead woman's husband as the man she saw running, Ginnie has to decide the right course of action. Should she go to the police and identify the man, thus exposing her adultery and shattering two families? Or should she remain quiet and well behaved, as she has throughout her childhood and frozen marriage? Ginnie's passivity is a bit implausible for a therapist, yet Leroy delineates her diffidence in a deliberately hypnotic, masterly fashion. Her quiet, self-assured narrative voice deliverstremendous psychological depth and emotional resonance. Old-fashioned, realistic fiction that aims to challenge rather than mollify.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316077101
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
06/27/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
309,398
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

The River House


By Margaret Leroy

Little, Brown

Copyright © 2005 Margaret Leroy
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-74157-4


Chapter One

HE'S BUILDING A WALL FROM LEGO. There's no sound but the click as he slots the bricks together and his rapid, fluttery breathing. His face is white as wax. I know he's very afraid.

"You're building something," I say.

He doesn't respond.

He's seven, small for his age, like a little pot-bound plant. Blond hair and skin so pale you'd think the sun could hurt him, and wrists as thin as twigs. A freckled nose that would wrinkle if he smiled-but I've yet to see a smile.

I kneel on the floor, to one side of him so as not to be intrusive. His fear infects me; the palms of my hands are clammy.

"Kyle, I'm wondering what kind of room you're building. I don't think it's a playroom, like this one."

"It's the bedroom," he says. Impatient, as though this should be obvious.

"Yes. You're building the bedroom."

His building is complete now-four walls, no door.

It's a warm October afternoon, syrupy sunlight falling over everything. My consulting room seems welcoming in the lavish light, vivid with the primary colors of toys and paints and Play-Doh, and the animal puppets that children will use to speak for them, that will sometimes free them to say astonishing things. The walls are covered with drawings that children have given me, though there's nothing of my own life here-no traces of my family, of Greg or my daughters, no Christmas or holiday photos; for the children who come here, I want to be theirs alone for the time that they're with me. The mellow light falls across Kyle's face, but it doesn't brighten his pallor.

He digs around in the Lego box, looking for something. I don't reach out to help him; I don't want to distract him from his inner world. His movements are narrow, restricted; he will never reach out or make an expansive gesture. Even when he's drawing, he confines himself to a corner of the page. Once I said, Could you do me a picture to fill up all this space? He drew the tiniest figures in the margin, his fingers scarcely moving.

He finds the people in the box. A boy and an adult that could be a man or a woman: just the same as last time.

"The people are going into your building. I'm wondering what they're doing there."

He's grasping the figures so tightly you can see his bones white through his skin.

I feel a slight chill as a shadow passes across us. Instinctively, I turn-thinking I might see someone behind me, peering in at the window. But of course there's nothing there-just a wind that stirs the leaves of the elms that grow at the edge of the car park.

There's a checklist in my mind: violence, or sex abuse, or something he has seen-because I have learned from years of working with these troubled children that it's not just about what is done to you, that what is seen also hurts you. I know so little. His foster parents say he's very withdrawn. His mother could have helped me, but she's on a psychiatric ward, profoundly depressed, not well enough to be talked to. The school staff were certainly worried. "He seems so scared," said the teacher who referred him to the clinic. "Of anything in particular?" I asked. "Swimming lessons, story time, male teachers?" She had riotous, nut-brown hair, and her eyes were puzzled. I liked her. She frowned and fiddled with her hair. "Not really. Just afraid."

"Perhaps a bad thing happened in the bedroom," I say now, very gently. "Perhaps the boy is unhappy because a bad thing happened."

Noises from outside scratch at the stillness: the slam of a door in the car park, the harsh cries of rooks in the elms. He clicks the figures into place. The sounds are clear in the quiet.

"You can talk about anything here," I tell him. "Even bad things, Kyle. No one will tell you off, whatever you say. Sometimes children think that what happened was their fault, but no one will think that here."

He doesn't respond. Nothing I say makes sense to him. Yet I know this must be significant, this room with the child and the adult, over and over. And no way out, no door.

Perhaps this is the detail that matters. I sit there, thinking of doors. Of going through into new, expectant spaces: of that image I love from Alice in Wonderland, the narrow door at the end of the hall that leads to the rose garden. Maybe he needs to experience here in the safety of my playroom the opening of that door. I feel a surge of hope. Briefly, I thrill to my imagery of liberation, of walking out of prison.

"Perhaps the boy feels trapped." I keep my voice very casual. "Like there's no way out for him. But there is a way. He doesn't know it yet, but there is a way out of the room for him. He could build a door and open it. All that he has to do is to open the door...."

He turns so his back is toward me, just a slight movement, but definite. He rips a few bricks from his building and dumps them back in the box, as if he's throwing rubbish away. His face is blank. He stands by the sandpit and digs in the sand with his fingers and lets the grains fall through his hands. When I speak to him now, he doesn't seem to hear.

After Kyle has gone, I stand there for a moment, looking into the empty space outside my window, needing a moment of quiet to try to make sense of the session. I watch as Peter, my boss, the consultant in charge of the clinic, struggles to back his substantial BMW into rather too small a space. The roots of the elms have pushed to the surface and spread across the car park; the tarmac is cracked and uneven.

The things that have to be done tonight pass rapidly through my mind. Something for dinner. The graduates' art exhibition at Molly's old school. Soy milk for Greg and buckwheat flour for his bread. Has Amber finished her Graphics course work? Fix up a drink with Eva.... A little wind shivers the tops of the elms; a single bright leaf falls. I can still feel Kyle's fear: He's left something of it behind him, as people may leave the smell of their cigarettes or scent.

I sit at my desk and flick through his file, looking for anything that might help, a way of understanding him. A sense of futility moves through me. I wonder when this happened-when my certainty that I could help these children started to seep away.

I have half an hour before my next appointment. I take the file from my desk and go out into the corridor.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The River House by Margaret Leroy Copyright © 2005 by Margaret Leroy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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