The Venetian House (by Mary Nickson)

I have very much enjoyed all the novels by Mary Sheepshanks, whom I discovered some years ago. So I was delighted to find that she is now writing as Mary Nickson, and has produced two more books in the past few years. This one, alas, is now out of print but I was able to buy it inexpensively from Abebooks.

'The Venetian House' is a wonderful book! It starts with a prologue: Victoria, her cousin Greg and his schoolfriend Richard are all on holiday in Corfu. Victoria adores her wild cousin Guy, and is very fond of the more stable Richard.

Then the book moves forward many years, to a time when Victoria has been married to Richard for eight years; they have a son, Jake, who is six. Richard has been a devoted and reliable husband, even if he somewhat lacks Guys's sparkle, but he is unaccountably depressed when Guy gets married in secret. It makes Victoria wonder if he has been having an affair with Guy's new wife...

Then a horrific accident happens, which change everyone's lives dramatically. Even worse, several people wonder if it was in fact an accident. For various reasons, Victoria and Jake go to Corfu for a break, to stay with her elderly grandmother.

Meanwhile, Patrick, a writer/photographer, is having a difficult time in his marriage to the insecure, temperamental Rachel. She has always been rather cold to their two teenagers, Sam and Sophia, but is passionately attached to their unplanned third child, Posy, who is fast becoming a spoiled brat.

Moreover, Rachel is far too strongly influenced by her dubious therapist Bronwen. Patrick asks her to go to Corfu with him, but she refuses - so he takes Sam and Sophia, with a commission to write about The Venetian House, which is the home of Victoria's grandmother.

The two families find themselves very attracted to each other, and an incredible coincidence is discovered... I tend to be a bit suspicious of coincidences in novels, but I was so caught up in this one that I could see it coming, and even believe in it. it certainly didn't spoil the story in any way.

Wonderful writing, excellent characterisation, right from the elderly grandmother down to six-year-old Jake, all trying to come to terms with past pain and problems, all with hope and faith for the future. Moving in places - enough so that tears came to my eyes more than once - and I found it almost impossible to put down.

Highly recommended.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 16th July 2008

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