I bought The Tortoise and the Hare not really knowing very much about it, but with the knowledge that it has been admired by several bloggers and by Hilary Mantel. And who could resist that cover? This fifties novel of marital discord turned out to be remarkable and one of my favorite reads of 2012.
Imogen Gresham is in her late thirties, beautiful, elegant and deferential. Gently ignored by her husband, the successful and handsome Evelyn, and despised by her young son Gavin, Imogen doesn’t feel necessarily happy in her life, but she does feel safe and stable. When the Gresham’s country neighbor, Blanche Silcox, shows an increasing interest in Evelyn, Imogen ignores her intuition and observations, certain that the stout, frumpy Blanche would never be able to attract someone like her suave and sophisticated husband.
The restrained beauty of Jenkins’s writing perfectly reflects the subtle unfolding of this surprising tale. Imogen is a good woman, but she is incredibly passive and meek – painfully so. She can’t demand respect from either her husband or her son and this is ultimately her undoing. She commands adoration from various men because of her beauty, but her fear of Evelyn repels him. It was hard not to be completely frustrated with Imogen, but I had sympathy for her as well because Evelyn is so cold and judgmental.
I really loved Jenkins’s descriptions of the countryside. She excels at creating atmosphere and her secondary characters add humor and depth to the novel.
This was the book that truly broke me out of my reading slump. I read it in three days and longed to read it when I was doing anything else. I don’t reread novels very often, but this is one that I will definitely read again. The plot, the authentic characters and especially the writing are all perfection.
Have you read Elizabeth Jenkins?
Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends! I am thankful for many things in my life, but one of the things I am most grateful for is the connections I’ve made through this blog. Thank you all for reading and supporting my passion for novels!