Tuesday, April 12, 2011
The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens
Louise Bickford is a widow and judging by the way she was treated by her husband, Dudley, I would say she is better off. But sadly, with very little to live on she is shuttled like a piece of furniture between her three daughters. Miriam and her husband pretend all is well in their magazine-style English existance with their three school-age children. Eva is an actress whose big break is just one play away and then there is Anne, a slattern if ever there was one, living on a small farm with her husband, Frank. There is something very reminiscent of Hyacinth, Daisy and Violet about these three women.
While everyone bustles about in their lives, Louise endures her loneliness as best she can. Stopping into a Lyon's tea room one day, she strikes up a conversation with another man sitting on his own. Gordon Disher works at a department store but for extra money he writes crime novels under the pen name, Lester Drage. There is an immediate affinity between these two lonely people and Louise finds herself offering to read his latest murder mystery and offer an opinion.
This new relationship is scoffed at by her daughters. After all, why would a woman of a certain age need male companionship and if you did, he should at least travel in well-heeled circles, not sell beds in a department store or write trashy novels.
Ellen Chadwick, Miriam's eldest daughter, melted my heart. She doesn't quite fit in at home and is treated harshly by her father thus living in a world where she feels things deeply. Being with her grandmother and Mr Disher fills her heart with delight and thank goodness for that at least. A trip to the markets stalls on Portobello Road where she finds a painting to hang by her bed is written so wonderfully that I am sure I will never forget it.
There were times when I wanted Louise to stop being so polite, to stop placating her spoiled daughters but she desperately needs their support. If the times meant that this was how things were, with no social assistance for women like Louise then I wanted Mr Disher to be her knight in shining armour. He could well have done with the company and a feminine touch in his meagre flat. But you'll have to read the book yourself to find out what happens.
The Winds of Heaven was an enjoyable read, I only wish it went on a bit longer.