When Rooks Speak of Love by Hilary Dixon

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When Rooks Speak of Love by Hilary Dixon

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This novel is all about love - both selfish and selfless. It's a roller-coaster of emotions for this rather strange menage a trois.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Solidus
ISBN: 978-1904529422

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Arthur Transcombe is a middle-aged, grey-haired, self-effacing poet. Unremarkable really - on the outside. He has, however, managed to achieve some success with his poems. (Being a guest speaker at the Cheltenham Literary Festival is no mean feat). He is also a babe magnet!

We are introduced to two artistic people, Arthur and his partner Clementine. They choose to live a rather reclusive life holed up in a corner of rural Somerset. Sounds lovely and domesticated and yes, there is an Aga purring away in their cosy kitchen. But all is far from cosy.

Enter Lily. Young, vivacious and on the look-out for something very special. Lily admires Arthur, the poet and also Arthur, the man. She puts the $64,000 question to him. He responds and all three lives will never be the same again.

Clementine could, in all honesty, be described as Arthur's 'project'. She comes across as a rather unattractive person and seems to live on her nerves - she's as highly strung as a Stradivarius violin. Basically, she's hard work. She seems to be forever leaning on poor, old Arthur as if he's some sturdy, wooden gate post. And in a way, he is. He's old-fashioned (even his name Arthur, is old-fashioned) and comes across as very endearing. As you'd expect, he's extremely precise with the English language. Clementine is never, ever called Clem or Clemmie, it always has to be Clementine. But there's a fine line between being precise and being pedantic. Life is too short to stuff a mushroom ...

Although the landscapes and seascapes are open and rolling, there's a definite sense of claustrophobia running throughout the entire novel.

Dixon has worked hard towards her desired poetic effect. Even the title is suitably poetic. There are lots and lots of soft, sensuous consonants, nothing too hard or jarring. For me, some poetic lines work better than others. For example, I find the description Shadows: alter-ego of tree, hedge and creature, stretch slant a little too contrived, strained. Whereas the altogether more natural And he opens the sitting room door as she arrives ... a human apple ripe and full at his feet. and a fog of weariness original and delightful. Some, I'm afraid, are plain clumsy and don't work at all, such as The bus is coldly late ...

Dixon has succeeded in creating tension alright. Every noise in that cottage seems magnified a hundredfold. A few friends float in and out but that's about the extent of Arthur and Clementine's social life. Whole pages are written where nothing much happens at all. But then, that's the whole point. At times I felt I was trying to walk through treacle. I also wanted to throttle both of them - but for very different reasons. I didn't take to Lilly, in fact I couldn't have cared less about her, probably because of her selfish nature.

On a positive note, I found Dixon's many, short (often just one or two words) sentences and de-constructed sentences refreshing and very easy to read. It all flows along nicely. A niggle for me though, was her over-use of adverbs.

Action is almost like a swear word in this novel. It's all about emotions, feelings, the intangibles of life. In other words, 'stuff happens' and it's how these three contrasting characters deal with it all.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Love and Summer by William Trevor.

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Buy When Rooks Speak of Love by Hilary Dixon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy When Rooks Speak of Love by Hilary Dixon at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy When Rooks Speak of Love by Hilary Dixon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy When Rooks Speak of Love by Hilary Dixon at Amazon.com.


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