by Peter Cameron
This English "domestic" novel is similar, in its way to Brookner's Rules of Engagement. Cameron, however, must travel further back to make his characters credible; all the way back to post-WW II England. He has managed to pull this off quite nicely, creating a story that could serve as the basis for a Douglas Sirk film.
Coral Glynn is a nurse who comes to Maj. Clement Hart's house to care for his dying mother. Hart, himself, is a wounded veteran of the war. He has refused the skin grafts that his surgeons have recommended and continues to suffer from the pain and immobility that his wounds produce.
Coral is a passive person, unable to stand up for herself, even to the housekeeper Mrs. Prence, a small-minded, even cruel woman. She is the victim of a sexual assault from the father of children she was called in to care for. She does nothing about this. She is also unable to decide what she really wants for herself when Maj. Hart proposes to her. She is introduced to friends of Clement's, Robin a friend from Clement's past and his wife Dolly.
Ensuing complications make clear that Robin is in love with Clement and that they have a "past." Clement, though, has decided to put away childish things, for this is how he sees their relationship, and marry, as so many gay men would do in those years (J. M. Keynes comes to mind.).
A crime is committed in the vicinity of the Major's house and Coral is involved, innocently, but the machinations of Mrs. Prence and the vagaries of the local constabulary make it seem that Coral must leave to go into hiding. She later lives in London, working for the NHS. Clement has assumed that Coral has thought better of the marriage and has not contacted him for that reason. Coral has written, but her letters have gone astray.
Clement tries to begin with her again, but Coral's spine begins to stiffen ever so slightly and she becomes, at last, more decisive.
Peter Cameron has provided an enjoyable period novel the plot of which his writing makes acceptable, even palatable.