Thursday, 12 June 2008
No one now will know by E M Delafield
Told in three separate sections, running in reverse chronological order, this novel traces a family saga across three generations. Each layer of the family has its mousy girl, its charismatic, dominating woman, and its charismatic young man. The first section, contemporary with the novel's writing, introduces us to the family through the eyes of Sue in a brief vignette of a family group travelling through the south of France. The second section, from the perspective of Callie, Sue's mother, as a small child transplanted from her grandmother's home in the West Indies to live with her aunt and cousins in Devonshire, sets up the tangle of misunderstandings about Callie's origins that are exposed in the third section. This last section switches narrative focus between Kate, her friend Rosalie, and Kate's two brothers who are both in love with Rosalie, and could both be Callie's father. The middle section tells us that Rosalie will die in a carriage accident; the final section drags rather in reaching this signposted climax, particularly when compared with the pithier early sections of the novel. Delafield stretches the suspense of this final section to its extremes. However, the characterisation of another of her monstrous mothers, and of Kate, are both good. For the other characters, a little less telling, and a little more showing, would have been an improvement.