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According to Ruth - Book of the Month

by Jane Feaver

This is the story of a family’s final summer together. With lacerating insight, Jane Feaver chronicles the break-down of a marriage from the point of view of the eldest daughter, fifteen-year-old Ruth.

Lizzie and John take their four children, Ruth, Amelia, Jack and Biddy, to their holiday cottage in Northumberland. It is a god-forsaken place: isolated, bleak, without running water or a lavatory, yet it rings with echoes of happier holidays. Gradually it becomes clear that the loving relationship that leant High Shield its charm has been eroded to the point of no return and we are witness to the almost unbearable spectacle of John’s distancing of himself and Lizzie’s despair.

In Ruth, the narrator, Jane Feaver gives us a heartbreakingly authentic portrait of a teenage girl old enough to be aware of the marriage disintegrating but too young to understand the cruel dynamics. Irritated by her siblings and eager to unshackle herself from the family, she becomes obsessed with Robert, son of the local farmer, and the only available object for her adolescent romantic yearnings. Looking to him for escape, she is shocked to discover that his family are no more ‘normal’ than her own and that they are burdened with their own share of secrets and grief.

Jane Feaver is a wonderful writer: spare, clear, as authentic with dialogue as she is lyrical in her descriptions. There is the aching sadness of loss at the heart of ACCORDING TO RUTH, yet it is also very funny. This is a brilliant first novel and we are looking forward to reading her next.

Clare Chandler

Read our interview with Jane Feaver.

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