Phyllis Forrester, newly arrived back in England after living in Belgium, settles with her husband and three children in Sussex, near to her sisters, Nina and Patricia. It is 1938 and Phyllis is unsure whether war is coming. Nina, however, is more convinced: ‘We face a very real peril,’ she tells her sister. Nina organises ‘peace camps’ and invites Phyllis’s children to take part. These are full of healthy outdoor activities – ‘making camp-fires and playing games and sea-bathing’ – but are clearly intended to galvanise children and adults in support of a cause.
There is, then, a very obvious sense of impending doom in Cressida Connolly’s excellent second novel, a feeling heightened by occasional chapters dated 1979, in which Phyllis looks back on this period having served a sentence in Holloway Prison. It’s not immediately clear what crime this rather demure woman could