16/06/2007

Drumveyn (by Alexandra Raife)

I started reading the novels by Alexandra Raife about six years ago, including 'Drumveyn', her first novel. I found it very enjoyable at the time, though slightly to my surprise I had forgotten almost everything in it when I decided to re-read it a few days ago.

The novel features Madeleine, a forty-something upper-class widow in Scotland who has never really known any freedom or self-expression. She grew up with ambitious parents, went to an exclusive school, and married at nineteen to an older man who owned a mansion and - although basically fairly kind - didn't begin to understand his young wife. So when he died, she tries to continue the pattern of life she has always known, domineered by the unpleasant butler Platt and his wife.

Madeleine has two grown-up children who are not very close to her - both married, but neither of them entirely happy. And she has one really good friend Joss, who is totally different from her and who is the catalyst for some rather dramatic changes in Madeleine's life. She realises that she can control her own future - that she does not need to be tied to the past, and her tentative steps towards emancipation are sympathetically written.

There are rather a large number of other characters, and several subplots which intertwine well, although I found the sheer quantity somewhat confusing at times. There was rather a rapid viewpoint switch at times, too, sometimes even within one scene, which were puzzling and made me feel somewhat remote from the characters concerned. But the characterisation was good enough to keep me reading, and interested.

Recommended; it seems to be out of print currently, in both UK and USA, but can often be found second-hand.

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