The Mathematics of Love
by Emma Darwin
This is an excellent first novel. It is beautifully written: Emma Darwin is a natural writer and story teller who is also a highly professional author who never forgets her novelistís instincts.
Although she has thoroughly researched the background of her work and the plot is original and, at times, almost elusive, Emma Darwinís touch has the deceptive simplicity of a master. Her sense of time and place is faultless, even though the story ranges from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, and from the Battle of Waterloo and the Peninsular Wars, and from San Sebastian to Suffolk, the pace and tension does not falter. The cast is varied, wide, and very interesting.
The action begins in 1892 when Stephen Fairhurst, veteran of Waterloo, inherits Kersley Hall in Suffolk and retires from soldiering in search of a peaceful farmerís life. But he is haunted by the loss of his adored mistress, and decides that he must seek a wife. Instead he forms an unconventional friendship with Lucy Durward, a historical painter who is avid for description of battles and details of uniforms. Through their correspondence, Lucy delicately draws out the secrets of Stephenís life and helps him to lay his ghosts.
In the summer of 1967 a fatherless fifteen-year-old girl, Anna, who is uneducated, bored and neglected by her promiscuous mother, is dumped at a failing school at Kersley Hall. She is supposed to be in the care of the headmaster (her uncle), and her disagreeable grandmother. She gives them the slip and becomes involved with a sophisticated couple who are war photographers. Their friend gives her copies of the correspondence between Stephen and Lucy, which he has unearthed from the Kersley Hall archives. Annaís own love affair becomes more and more associated in her mind with that of Stephen, and there is a hint of the paranormal in Annaís fascination with Stephen and Lucy: in the end it helps her to bear the pain of her own crossed love. She is very young and there are tears, humour, and surprisingly satisfactory sex as the story unfolds.
This is a book that demands to be reread. It is erudite, unusual, and intriguing to the last page.