Alice Elliott Dark is an amazing writer. Great, quiet book.
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Think of England: A Novel (Paperback)
by Alice Elliott Dark "ON THAT NIGHT, a Sunday in February, Jane read under the covers with a flashlight, skimming a novel for a page she wanted to read..." (more)
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From Publishers Weekly
Dark's stark, emotionally honest debut novel (which follows her short story collections In the Gloaming and Naked to the Waist) traces one woman's reckoning with a childhood tragedy, set against mid-1960s America and swinging 1970s London. In rural eastern Pennsylvania, nine-year-old Jane MacLeod is writing a book about the happy family she desperately wishes she had. Her mother, Via, is dissatisfied and petulant, always resentful of the time Jane's father, Emlin, a heart surgeon, must spend with his patients at the hospital. One night in 1964, the family (including Jane's two younger brothers and sister and Via's homosexual brother, Uncle Francis) gathers to watch the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. All goes well until Emlin discovers that someone has taken the phone off the hook, so that he can't receive emergency calls. Angrily, he accuses Via (who accuses Jane) and rushes off to the hospital. He is killed in an automobile accident. Fifteen years later, Jane has moved to London, where she's become friends with bohemians Nigel and Colette. A political bombing and an affair with aloof (and married) American writer Clay West lead Jane to confront her long-buried guilt over her parents' unhappiness and father's death. Dark uses cultural icons and historic events to give texture to the pivotal moments in her characters' lives. Although Jane's final revelation is no surprise, the author's languid yet affecting style and true-to-life dialogue make this a satisfying read for the baby-boomer set.
Alice Elliott Dark's first novel was certainly worth waiting for and a worthy follower of the book of short stories IN THE GLOAMING that received such critical acclaim a few years ago. Jane, a youngster when her beloved father has an accident and is killed, grows up believing she is responsible for his death. This misconception follows her into adulthood and colors her entire life and is what much of the novel is about.
Ms. Dark is very good with dialogue and verbal fencing. When the uoung man from England Nigel tells her he is gay and asks if she's bothered with learning that, the conversation goes like this:
"'Of Course not. My uncle is gay,' she offered, and immediately regretted it. 'I'm sorry.That was stupid.'
'Quite all right. My sister's a girl, if that makes you feel any better.'"
Dark delves into the complexity and difficulty of family relationships that sound all too familiar to many of us. Once again she writes about lost opportunities and living with the consequences.
Oh, the title for this novel comes from wedding-night advice for Victorian brides: "Just close your eyes and think of England."