The River House by Margaret Leroy

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The River House by Margaret Leroy

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: An enjoyable if not earth-shattering read for a quiet afternoon.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: December 2010
Publisher: Mira
ISBN: 978-0778304098

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Ginnie Holmes is a child-psychologist, working to help children and young people damaged by what they have experienced or what they have seen. She is also the mother of two typical, happy teenage daughters – one just about to leave for university the other, trying hard not to work for her GCSE's. Her life is outwardly as near perfect as it gets. Her husband is a successful academic. She has a solid circle of friends old and new. The cottage by the river might be whimsical rather than elegant but it suits her and in the right light and the right company it is charming.

But nothing is ever perfect is it? Ginnie handles school parents' evenings on her own. Husband Greg struggles to attend his daughter's year-end art exhibition, and then cannot find anything positive to say about her masterpiece.

Ginnie can't remember when they last made love – and when the elder daughter leaves home, he moves into her bedroom. We'll both sleep better he says. A problem at work leads her to meet DI Will Hampden and, as the cliché has it, her world is turned upside down.

Only it isn't. Everything carries on much as before – only a passion takes hold, and every Thursday a psychologist and policeman meet for a drink, and to make love. They've no intention of changing their lives, but nor can they let each other go.

It is a fairly scrappy, shoddy affair. Their love-making starts out in the open, and only moves indoors when they discover an old abandoned boathouse on the riverbank. It is from this dark sanctuary that she sees a man running in the rain, incongruously dressed and looking worried. A man she later sees give a televised police appeal after his wife's body has been washed up in the river. She now has a choice – to tell and risk bringing her whole life down around her – or to keep quiet.

If you feel I've given too much of the story away – you're right. But it's all there on the back cover anyway.

Previous outings by Leroy have won praise for suspense and intrigue, for haunting writing. I'd be hard-stretched to say that The River House lives up to that billing. The plot runs as straight as The Thames, with a few wide loops, but no real twists to speak of.

The characters are finely drawn, rather than fully developed. They're believable by virtue of being so ordinary, rather than because we get to know and care about them.

The only thing that sets the book apart from the mundane is a beautiful turn of phrase. Leroy can capture a moment in a fresh green smell, or the romance of stepping out into a boat and gliding free leaving nothing but a wake of broken gold. Her descriptions of the city pathways along the river and out onto the islands are blissful – though the city Herons must take flight differently to their country cousins. She speaks of rustling wings and a cry, whereas hereabouts they simply fall silently into sky with no effort at all.

On balance it's a pleasant enough way to while away an afternoon, but not an earth-shattering read worth rushing out into the snow to seek out. It could all have been so much darker, and would have been better for it.

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

If this book appeals then you might enjoy The Weight of Water by Penelope Evans.

Buy The River House by Margaret Leroy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The River House by Margaret Leroy at

Buy The River House by Margaret Leroy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The River House by Margaret Leroy at


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