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I like Deborah Moggach's writing, her themes vary, but every book I have read of hers has been "un-put-downable". This one is no different.
It is set in the midst of the first world war, but the war is just "background" really.
Ralph and his mother run a lodging house in London, they are aided by Winnie, a country girl who has come to London to find work. In 1916 Mr Clay, Ralph's father is killed in action. The story picks up from there, until this point they are only just managing to make ends meet.

Eithne Clay is an alluring wife and mother whose husband is away fighting in the trenches. She runs a shabby boarding house in Southwark where her lodgers, like herself, lead lives of barely respectable desperation. The War casts a long shadow over ordinary lives; times are hard while men are away being slaughtered. Food is short and old certainties are breaking up around them. Eithne's adolescent son Ralph tries to be the man of the house, while the homely young maid, Winnie, barely manages to keep it all together.

The along come Neville Turk, the butcher, a handsome bull of a man, who falls for Eithne and throws her life into turmoil. He woos her with choice cuts, and soon the erotic voltage of their affair wakes up the house like the newly installed electricity. Ralph's jealousy of this interloper grows out of control, while Winnie's strange liaison with Alwyne Flyte, the blind lodger, has startling consequences. Meanwhile, in this house of whispers and secrets, the butcher has plans of his own, which lead to a tragic and dramatic climax. This sensual, tantalising and very often funny novel by a great storyteller throws an uncanny light on the tragicomedy of life on the home front.

To be honest the blurb could make you think that this novel is a bit slushy, or "lightweight", but it isn't. The characters are well developed, as you find, omissions are deliberate, which just add to the story. I wasn't expecting the climax of the novel at all, and it was certainly fitting. I won't tell you what it was, as that will spoil it for you if you decide to read this novel.


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