25/10/2007

The Stainless Angel (by Elizabeth Palmer)

When I found this book in a second-hand shop, I thought I was coming across a new author (to me). I could not remember having read anything by Elizabeth Palmer, and I'm always happy to try someone new. The blurb on the back said that this author is a welcome addition to the ranks of storytellers like Mary Wesley and Joanna Trollope. Though I have mixed feelings about Mary Wesley's books, I very much enjoy Joanna Trollope's.

A little research showed me that I have in fact read one of Elizabeth Palmer's books previously: I read 'Plucking the Apple' six years ago. I picked it up for similar reasons - it looked like my kind of book! - but wasn't actually all that impressed.

'The Stainless Angel' is the story of George and Camilla. George is a very respectable landowner from the UK, while Camilla is a society girl with a large number of debts. They met in Rome and married shortly before the book starts, but never actually discussed where they would live. Camilla can usually twist George around her little finger, but he is adamant that they must - sooner or later - return to his family home in England.

Camilla does not fit in, and is not popular with George's rather stuffy relative. Her arrival is the catalyst for all kinds of problems which were simmering just under the surface; tragedies happen during her first year there, although she does not seem to realise what a negative influence she has.

So it's a society novel in a sense, a rather grim picture of life amongst the upper classes. Most of the people are rather caricatured, and I simply couldn't believe in someone as dreadful as Camilla. Nevertheless, I kept turning the pages to find out what would happen.

More like Mary Wesley than Joanna Trollope, it wasn't a bad read for a wet weekend or a flight on an aeroplane, but I won't be keeping the book to re-read.

It's out of print, but can be found second-hand in many charity shops, or on Amazon UK.

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