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  • Lives Of Women

    Darling Blue is, ostensibly, the tale of three disparate women who are brought together at the impeccable Richmond location of Ryans Castle. Just to clarify, this is Richmond in London, UK and not USA and Ryans Castle is not a castle but a rather plush upper middle class villa. Set in the 1920s, it follows the three women through just one year in their lives. Ishbel - Known to everyone as Blue and she seems to be universally adored. 21 years old and an aspiring writer the book follows the year from the events of her 21st Birthday when her father announces to everyone that she is ready to marry and that she should be courted by letter. Midge - Stepmother to Blue and a rather enigmatic woman. She is struggling with her marriage and the constant reminders of her husband's deceased first wife. Delphine - Working Class girl who has had an impoverished upbringing and moved in to a violent marriage. In running away from her husband she is looking to reclaim her life. Here's the problem with the book - it is mainly about Ishbel, as the title suggests. Blue herself I did not find to be a particularly likeable character. She is self-absorbed and seems to not really give any thought to how other people feel in any given situation, on the rare occassion that she does her responses are overly dramatic. Once or twice she shakes this off and has a surprising amount of empathy but these are so out of pace with the rest of her character that I fear these are just examples of the author trying to make a point about something (if I was to tell you what that is it would spoil a plot point for you - admittedly if you are reading the book and have met Floss then you already know what I'm talking about as it comes as no real surprise). The only characters I felt myself really interested in were Midge and Delphine. Of the two there is only really Delphine who is a thoroughly decent person - although she does behave in a frustrating manner much of the time. This however, can be explained by the time period. Set in 1925 it is true to say that women had few freedoms and were seen as being the property of first their father and then their husband; the feeling of suffocation this must have brought to many is writ large with Delphine. This is definitely a book about emotions and behaviours rather than actual events. There are a couple of more explosive, action packed scenes but on the whole nothing really happens throughout the book except for Blue, Midge and Delphine variously describing their lives and those who have interacted with them. Some of the emotional responses in the book feel lacking and the mystery behind Midge is not really dealt with, it is swept away under the carpet and forgiveness is freely given in a situation where I feel few could do so. Based on all I've said you would only really expect a 2 Star review. That third star is simply for the capturing of the 1920s in England - certainly, in that rarefied sector of England at any rate. From the dialogue to the settings we find our protagonists in it all smacks of authenticity and you do feel sucked in to the time and the place - even if the people that populate it leave you, on the whole, rather uninterested. The author's attention to detail in the setting is what earns this book a read. The supplementary characters are well written and all have a worthy place in the tale as they flesh out the world Darling Blue inhabits. From the superficiality of being a party girl (Dorian, Floss, Tab), to a hard working hack (Roger, Gordon, Barnaby - dear, delightful Barnaby) and a book loving homebody (Merrigan, L.W.) we get to see all her facets through her interactions with these people. The main background character (if that isn't too much of a contradiction interms) is Kenneth Campbell. As Midge's husband and Blue's father he is quite an important part of the tale but he is completely one dimensional and never blossoms in to a real person. The nearest we get is when he makes his ludricrous speech at Blue's 21st, after that he is almost so superficial as to be Santa Claus. I don't regret reading the book and enjoyed the settings more than the people. However, I would hesitate to recommend it to anyone as it is very much a marmite book and I would hate anyone to be disappointed in my recommendations. Why not read a short excerpt before buying (if available). THIS IS AN HONEST AND UNBIASED REVIEW OF A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK RECEIVED FROM THE PIGEONHOLE.

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