In 1914, when Nicandra is eight, all is well in the grand Irish estate, Deer Forest. Maman is beautiful and adored. Dada, silent and small, mooches contendedly around the stables. Aunt Tossie, of the giant heart and bosom, is widowed but looks splendid in weeds. The butler, the groom, the landsteward, the maids, the men - each as a place and knows it. Then, astonishingly, the perfect surface is shattered; Maman does something too dreadful ever to be spoken of.'What next? Who to love?' asks Nicaranda. And through her growing up and marriage her answer is to swamp those around her with kindness - while gradually the great house crumbles under a weight of manners and misunderstanding.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 256 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date: 01/06/2006
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781844083251
- EPUB from £6.99
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Review by lahochstetler
This book reminded me very much of another Virago book- Sara Grand's The Beth Book. Though published a century later, and set several decades later, there are decided similarities. Both center girls growing up in loveless households, both have lost parents, and both grow up to marry boorish and unfaithful men, their marriages making their lives miserable. But there are distinct differences too, and Keane's Nicandra is no mere copy of Beth Caldwell. Nicandra is neither bright nor feminist. She is a gentle soul, breakable, really. Nicandra's youth is so empty of affection that she fails to function as an adult. Named after her father's favorite horse, Nicandra commands even less attention than her equine namesake. She is a girl, and later a woman, with love to give and no one willing to receive it. Giving love becomes an obsession for Nicandra. It becomes her life's purpose. As Nicandra's marriage appears to be falling apart, so too is her father's home, literally. Her family becomes a living part of the downfall of the Irish gentry. I was shocked to discover that this book had been written as late as 1988. In tone and language it reads as though it was written in the early-twentieth century, when it takes place. This is a tragic story. Nicandra, though almost monomaniacal in her loving and giving, she is still a complicated enough character to be more than just a type. After reading many books in which the ending disappoints, I am delighted to say that this one lived up to all my expectations. The ending is both suspenseful and unexpected.