31 May 2011

Book Review: The Eloquence of Desire by Amanda Sington-Williams

Title: The Eloquence of Desire
Author: Amanda Sington-Williams
Publisher: Sparkling Books
ISBN: 978-1-907230-16-5
Format: Paperback
303 pages
Genre: Fiction
Review copy provided by the author

The Eloquence of Desire is a provocative story set in the 1950s, about a family and how they all suffer from the consequences when the husband is unfaithful.

George, his wife Dorothy, and Susan, their twelve-year-old daughter, live a quiet life in England until they all have their lives turned upside down when George has an affair with the daughter of his boss and he is punished by being sent to work in Malaya. Dorothy has no choice but to go with him but they decide to leave Susan in a boarding school in England.

Inevitably, this forced exile puts an immense strain on the family and each of them deals with it in a different way.

George and Dorothy attempt to settle into their new life and deal with the circumstances that have altered their lives so dramatically by maintaining the pretense of a happy marriage but Dorothy becomes a frightened recluse and George becomes involved with another woman. When their daughter subsequently arrives, an incident occurs that affects all of them in a profound way.

The author creates a strong sense of time and place with the exotic setting in Malaya brought to life with vivid descriptions of the birds, the gardens, and the intense heat. The contrast between the lifestyle of the native Malay people and that of the British expats with their live-in servants is also striking.

There is a constant threat from the Communist uprising in the background of the story. That threat plus the hot, humid climate adds an extra layer of tension to the story and a sense of foreboding. Indeed, I had a strong feeling of claustrophobia while reading the story which reflects how the characters feel - trapped in an unhappy marriage and in a place far away from their safe lives in England.

All the characters are superbly drawn although it has to be said that none of them are particularly likeable characters, especially George. However, saying that, the author makes it easy to understand how each of the characters feels and why they react the way they do.

The Eloquence of Desire is about the repercussions of infidelity, and the way individuals cope when their lives start to unravel. Ultimately, it's about how desire and obsessive love can destroy relationships but also about how people can adapt and change.

The Eloquence of Desire is an atmospheric novel with thought-provoking themes, and I wish to thank the author for providing me with a copy.

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