A traveller on a train returning to London smells the burn of brakes as it hisses to a stop in the middle of the countryside. He sees a white-faced woman leap from the train and race to the aid of a sheep stranded on its back, unable to rise, in a field. Righting it, she turns, and he sees her face is full of tragedy. Considering tragedies of his own, he does not intrude, but the image lodges in his mind: a strange but familiar despair, unable, despite itself, to ignore the desperation it recognises in others.
From these seeds Mary Wesley draws out a plot of an unforgettable impact: of loss, of release, of a necessarily comic acceptance of fate, of love - the 'imaginative experience'. Rich in character and wit, and powerfully moving, this is a novel of the heart's pain and deliverance.
©1994 Mary Wesley (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
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"Great Characters, Wonderful Reader"
This was a bit of fluff--in the best possible way. I'm at a stressful point at work and needed something fairly light (although it does have a vein of tragedy running through it). It begins when a young woman pulls the emergency brake on a train--something passenger Sylvester Wykes admits that he's always wanted to do but never had the guts. The reason Julia Piper pulled the brake? To help a sheep she had seen from her window who was stuck on its back. When they all disembark at the next station, Sylvester sees her again, mildly curious, but Maurice Benson takes a more stalkerish mode, determined to find out everything he can about her.
Wesley has created a group of intriguing characters not only in Julia, Sylvester, and Maurice, but in the secondary characters as well. There's Sylvester's soon-to-be ex-wife, Celia, who ran off with another man, denuding the house in the process; even things that had been handed down from his father were gone, as well as the teakettle he had just purchased to replace the one she had just taken. Rebecca, Sylvester's domineering former secretary, can't help herself from frequently popping in with attempts to take charge. It's great fun to see how the mild-mannered Sylvester gradually learns how to manage her. Much of the story centers around the shop on the corner, run by the agreeable Mr. Patel. Julia befriends his wife, despite her inability to speak English, and becomes close to the Patel's two little boys. Her mother, Clodagh, is the epitome of a horrible mother, for various reasons preferring her son-in-law to her own daughter. And there's a dog in the mix--a 'lurcher' eventually named Joyful.
In some ways, as one reviewer states, this is a pretty typical love story. But it's one with a little surprise around every corner. It has been a long time since I've read a Mary Wesley novel, and this one remionded me of how much I've enjoyed her others. I only wish that Audible would carry more unabridged editions. This one was read by Samuel West, who is my all-time favorite reader.
"Lightly entertaining and inconsequential"
It reminds me a little of the film Sleepless in Seattle: lightly entertaining and inconsequential. The good characters need love and mothering, and the bad ones are enjoyably awful. Her observation of urban life is good though I wouldn't recommend it if you are looking for acute insight. The dialogue is mostly well written but in a few places I thought it missed the mark.
The reading is gentle and pleasant to listen to though lacking expression in the dialogue. The production quality isn't as good as most audible books. The sound distorts slightly and the volume is unsteady. I still give it a solid 4 star recommendation, perhaps best for the holiday reading list.
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