Coral Glynn by Peter Cameron
FSG • $25 • ISBN 9780374299019
published March 5, 2012

American author Peter Cameron has just released his sixth novel, Coral Glynn, and fans of carefully drawn period pieces set in Britain should be celebrating. (Cameron spent some of his childhood there, and his portrait of the country rings true.) This story of two lonely people—one, a private duty nurse; the other, her dying charge's war-wounded son—is set in 1950 and contains many a nod to British classics of yesteryear. What seems at first a beautifully written but hardly unique tale of a sudden marriage across classes slowly morphs into something much deeper as the characters' pasts are revealed and a horrific incident in the woods shakes their world. Both Coral and Major Hart are survivors, but not all scars are visible.

My galley of this book is dog-eared; there's an interesting observation or fresh turn of phrase on nearly every page. In this excerpt, Major Hart has just proposed to Coral, on the day after his mother died.

"Yes," said Coral. "I mean, thank you. But we hardly know one another. And it is nice to feel warm and tender toward someone, but is it . . . a basis for marriage?"

He leant back in his chair and sighed, and covered his eyes with his hand for a moment, but quickly took it away. "Of course, you deserve more than that," he said. "You deserve . . . love. I suppose everyone does. Or perhaps not. But you do—"

"And you!" She did not want to say the word—it seemed too preposterous—so she said, "You deserve it too."

"No, I don't. And I'm not asking for love, or even wanting it. I just want to not go all bitter and dead inside like my mother. And living here, alone, I know that I would. I can feel it already, something inside me, someone inside me, moving from room to room, shutting all the doors, shuttering the windows."

What are you reading this week?

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