The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard
|The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A haunting tale of an elderly lady looking back on a life lived and guilt that still reverberates. The sort of book that makes you want to slow down your reading speed to soak it all up.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: October 2014|
Eleanor has been persuaded by her children to seriously consider sheltered accommodation. At the age of 94 and blind, she isn't considered safe rattling around a big old house. She doesn't surrender without conditions though: before she considers moving out, a stranger should be employed to sort her photos and papers before burning them. The family agree and Peter is appointed. Gradually he realises why Eleanor doesn’t want her children to see the documents as the story of hidden life, love and loss is revealed.
Nicci Gerrard is one of those writers with a double life. As Nicci French she has a successful thriller-writing career with husband Sean French. Under the 'Gerrard' label, from her first solo novel (Things We Knew Were True 2003) she's built an equally good reputation on tales of love; its joys and its associated difficulties. The Twilight Hour is Nicci's sixth solo novel and, to my mind, one of her best yet.
The whole book centres on the sturdy, attractive cussedness of Eleanor. She has always thought of herself as indomitable but now has to give in as the combination of her failing sight, her family's pressure and her inability to contain a paper fire work against her. Ok we may join her family in agreeing what's best but we're plumping for Eleanor totally from the very first page.
Gradually the story unfolds and Eleanor's past youth unfolds with it. We're there when she explains to Peter what he's seeing in the photos and mysterious letters he's rescuing from the back of the filing cabinet. Through these bygone era stories Eleanor ceases to be a cantankerous elderly lady and becomes a young woman between the wars, suffering her capricious, self-centred step-sister Merry and looking for love.
Eleanor chooses her man sensibly but then, when passion hits it obliterates the need for choice, throwing her into a maelstrom that will last a lifetime. It's even more interesting in that, while facing Eleanor's demons, Peter also has to face demons of his own.
Eleanor's past remembered is contrasted against Merry's past repeating as the latter now sits in her dementia-coloured world almost like a modern Miss Haversham. For me Merry epitomises the power of Nicci's writing as she goes from someone I want to shake to someone for whom I'm shedding tears within moments. Indeed, in some ways Peter's character is side-lined by the two women but he's the excuse via which Eleanor reveals all so that’s not a complaint, merely an observation.
This is definitely a notch above your average romantic novel as Nicci draws us in and holds us there without dumbing down. There are also some gloriously unexpected twists and turns among the half-anticipated. Although, no matter how anticipated a twist is, none detract from the novel's heart-wrenching impact.
In fact that's the word that best sums up The Twilight Hour (the hour in the novel in which the worst damage is done) – impact. It hits us full on and lingers, beckoning me at least to read it again and I will… gladly.
(Thank you so much, Penguin, for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals then we definitely recommend Cover Your Eyes by Adele Geras.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard at Amazon.com.
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