A mouldering country house in the Midlands called Sweynsend Hall provides an atmospheric backdrop for this unusual novel about unrequited love.
Its narrator, businessman Jimmy Hood, acquires the Hall from the estate of young William Carew, who died tragically in 1985, a few years previously. He marries Juliette Binoche-lookalike Teresa Fairfax, whose family inhabit a house in the grounds. Three months wed, with Teresa now pregnant, Jimmy brings a colleague home one day and is understandably disturbed to discover that Lucas not only knows Sweynsend Hall all too well, but that Teresa was once passionately and hopelessly in love with the man. Teresa, herself shaken by the surprise meeting, pours out to her husband the whole convoluted story. Her account begins before her birth, when her parents became tenants on the Sweynsend estate, ending up as unpaid servants to Major and Mrs Carew, William’s grandparents. It finishes more than twenty years later, on the night of Teresa’s birthday party, when Lucas’s manipulative behaviour indirectly causes William’s death.
A less imaginative writer than de Falbe might have allowed Jimmy to stand back and let Teresa speak directly to the reader. Instead the author takes the harder option, with Jimmy continuing to narrate, so that the events and conversations that Teresa relates are viewed through the eye of the