The Eloquence of Desire by Amanda Sington-Williams

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The Eloquence of Desire by Amanda Sington-Williams

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This novel is set in a far-flung British Colony in the 1950s. The posting is punishment for unfaithful George: can he make amends to his wife and daughter?
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: June 2010
Publisher: Sparkling Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1907230110

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The novel starts in the post-war austerity years in England and centres around a middle-class, traditional family unit. Sington-Williams gives the reader a detailed description of that period - the bland food, the monotony of commuting to London (some things don't change) and of course, the rain. George, his wife Dorothy and their teenage daughter Susan don't really talk to each other. They tend to skirt round issues and walk on eggshells. Appearances are everything. So a suitably fabricated story is told to their small, family circle of George's company move. George has no choice in the matter. So he does what he always has done up till now, he puts a brave face on for the world and grins and bears it. It's a huge change in their domestic situation. Uprooted to a strange, foreign, tropical country they've only glimpsed in National Geographic.

The journey and their new life seem doomed from the start. Susan remains in England at boarding school. Straight away, this rather uptight couple is plunged into an unknown culture, dizzying heat and face to face with poverty for the locals. Stereotypically, they are cocooned in their compound with servants: a little corner of dear, old England. But with better weather. Sington-Williams also gives us plenty of stereotypical language from the Brits. So, it's beastly weather, jolly good etc . But it's all been done so many times before.

Some nice touches of the British abroad. In all this blistering heat, the expat community will still eat their Sunday roast and probably have a nice pudding with lashings of custard. At these points, I really wanted to shout out to Sington-Williams, tell me something new, tell me something different.

Dorothy comes over as weak. A bit of a drip. No real inner resources to cope. She's now got far too much time on her hands and doesn't know what to do with it. George is also weak in his own way. He seems to amble throughout his life, not really achieving very much. And what he has managed to achieve, he risks.

There are some nice creative lines throughout. One which I loved was when George was describing his wife taking a short break away from the relative safety of their compound as The picture of Dorothy enjoying the wilds did not fit, from whatever perspective he looked. Like dropping Constable into the East End of London. Lovely image. And of course, many of the Brits want to return to dear old Blighty. They don't mix at all with the locals, are not remotely interested in the culture. May as well have stayed at home.

I think that Sington-Williams wanted to charm the reader with her research which she has, to a certain extent. But the plot itself lacked any real punch. It didn't grab me. I was looking for more. For example, the blurb on the back cover states Susan self-harms. It gets very little mention and is rather weak in the telling. Hardly worth mentioning at all.

Having said all that, I wasn't expecting the ending. I didn't think Dorothy had it in her, quite frankly. But overall, a rather average read.

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

If this book appeals then you might like to try Into Suez by Stevie Davies.

Buy The Eloquence of Desire by Amanda Sington-Williams at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Eloquence of Desire by Amanda Sington-Williams at

Buy The Eloquence of Desire by Amanda Sington-Williams at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Eloquence of Desire by Amanda Sington-Williams at


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Stephen Wyatt said:

Having just finished reading The Eloquence of Desire, I find myself in disagreement with the bookbag reviewer.

I found the descriptions of Malaya very vivid in their evocation of the people, climate and landscape, where the the writer makes the sounds and smells almost tangible . There's much more to this than moaning Brits in their enclaves.

It's true that there is no Somerset Maugham-like melodrama in the central story but that seems to me a strength rather than a weakness. Sington-Williams has a wonderfully compassionate view of her all too human and believable characters. This is particularly true with George. On one level, this man is a selfish serial adulterer but we are lead to understand his motives and he emerges as a complex, if fallible, human being. The same understanding is offered to all the characters, major and minor.

I very much hope bookbag's readers will not be put off reading this accomplished and engrossing novel.

Stephen Wyatt