by Sue Eckstein
The scene for this wonderful novel is set in the first paragraph: where privet hedges give way to barriers of leylandii and high wrought-iron gates. A place we are told that “could induce a yearning for death in even the most optimistic.” Not only does it establish the spikey, drily humorous tone of the narrator, but it clearly marks the territory for a story about the screens that people erect to conceal unpalatable truths as much as to protect themselves from the transgressions of others. Like all the best literary suburbs, behind the neat hedges all is not as it seems.
Dr Julia Rosenthal, an anthropologist who has been living in west Africa for many years, returns to the house in which she grew up. And, as she wanders through the rooms, they provoke memories of her childhood in the 60s and 70s, which build into a subtly-layered portrait of a mid-twentieth century British nuclear family, as typically ordinary as it is unique.
Julia’s account is interleaved with another voice – that of a woman who tells a very different story and, as the two narratives converge, long-concealed truths are gradually revealed.
INTERPRETERS follows hot on the heels of Sue Eckstein’s successful debut novel, THE CLOTHS OF HEAVEN. With her characteristic lucid prose and deft characterisation, Eckstein has produced another finely-wrought and gripping novel that is destined to be a favourite with book groups.
Published by Myriad Editions, 214pp.