My review of Jane Feaver's new novel is in The Indy today:
The link seems to have disappeared, so here is the review:
An Inventory of Heaven - Jane Feaver Corsair £14.99 Reviewed by Leyla Sanai
Dysfunctional relationships have been a staple of Feaver's previous work, her debut According to Ruth centring around a girl's view of her parents' disintegrating marriage, and Love Me Tender,a collection of inter-linked stories, glimpsing the private lives of inhabitants of a Devon village.
Feaver is adroit at capturing the claustrophobia and community, crushed dreams and wistful lives of individuals seeking salvation in others. For her third book, Feaver returns to Devon. The section headings, some poem titles by Larkin, Heaney, Milton, Blake and Pound, hint at the hopes and longing explored in this quietly stunning novel.
Events flit between contemporary times and the 1940s - 1960s. The sections set in the present are narrated in the first- person by seventy year- old Mavis, who lives in a cottage bequeathed to her by her late aunt in a village to which Mavis was evacuated during the second world war. Having returned to her parents in London aged 7, Mavis moved back when 25. Her settled routine is ruffled by the arrival of a single mother, Eve, and Eve's son. Mavis is startled to discover a link between Eve and someone Mavis knew in the village decades previously.
Through flashbacks, the fragile web that binds people from the past and present is dismantled strand by strand. Catastrophic tragedy in the style of Mary Lawson and Patrick Lane lurks in the past. Feaver is gifted with acuity and perception similar to that of Tessa Hadley, Anne Tyler, Rose Tremain and Hilary Mantel. Her speciality is capturing the exquisite pain of spurned love with a sensitivity that manages the paradoxical feat of being understated yet also anguished. When the young Mavis falls for a married man, her feelings are decimated when 'He looked straight at me...The pale frost of his eyes. And in a second I was annihilated, the creamy blossoms scorched brown, rotted on the bough.' Later, asked to a dance by a man she has had a crush on, she dresses up, waits with heart-fluttering expectation, and is euphoric when her date turns up, but at the door of the dance, as he lets go of her arm and heads off alone, 'in a flash I realized that he was going to abandon me.'
Yet there is also mordant humour a-plenty in Feaver's dark, dry prose. A gormless man 'had an oily fringe and very large lips, apparently too heavy to open.' The moment before alcohol-induced vomiting is captured expertly: 'There was custard in my mouth. I could feel the weight of the liquid I carried, like one of those tribeswomen with a pitcher on her head.'
Accomplished in every way, this novel is a true delight.