Publishing year: 2005
This new novel alternates between two different moments in time.
Fifty years ago there is Estelle, a French little girl, whose mother dies when she is five. Her father never cares for her, and the only person who she feels loves her is her grandmother. However, her father thinks that she should be better with a girl her age. So he sends her away to England, her mother’s native country, and she starts living with Rhoda, who was her mother’s cousin, and her husband. Before leaving, her grandmother gives her a golden chain, and explains that this is part of a double chain. The one her grandmother gives her is the one what she had given her mother, and she tells her that one day when she dies, she will get the other one and must give her daughter or her son’s wife. I think this detail is important, but I am not sure why.
In England Estelle is unhappy as Paula, Rhoda’s daughter, is hateful to her, and does everything to make her feel unwelcome. Then when she is nine, a Russian woman buys the big house in the town, and Estelle learns that she is a ballet teacher. Since Estelle saw a pantomime and the dancers dancing, she hasn’t stopped thinking about dancing at all. Estelle dares to talk to the Russian woman, Olga Ravovska, telling her about her strong desire to learn how to dance. Olga tells her that she can come to her classes, but when Estelle asks for Rhoda’s permission, the woman tells her that her father’s money is not enough to cover for the classes. Estelle goes to Olga, sobbing, and Olga talks to Rhoda, and Estelle thinks that the woman must have told her aunt that she would teach Estelle for free. Whatever she told her, Rhoda finally agreed to let her have classes.
Apart from this, we know that her father hasn’t visited her at all in years. He has re-married, and then Estelle receives a letter, telling her about her grandmother’s death. In the letter she also gets the chain that her grandmother promised her years ago, and even though in her letter her father, and her aunt later tell her to put the chain in a bank, Estelle refuses and hides in one of her drawers, hidden from Paula’s inquisitiveness.
The second moment in time is December 1986, and we get to know Hester, who I think is Estelle. She is a famous retired dancer and lives in Wychwood House, the same house where Olga, Estelle’s teacher, lived. I can feel that Hester has had a life full of disappointments as she seems to be quite bitter about life. Now she is organising the Wychwood Festival, and a ballet company is performing in Wychwood House. Hester has never married, and I imagine she is childless, so her grandmother’s request hasn’t been fulfilled, I imagine. We know little about Hester; she has a bunch of friends. Ruby is a good friend, and now she has learnt that Adam, her ex-lover, has died of a heart attack. From her cryptic memories we know that there are some pivotal moments in her life, and one of them is when Adam and she went their different ways.
This is my first book by Adèle Geras, so I am not sure what to expect. At some points I was getting a bit bored, because there is not much dialogue, so the prose occasionally feels a bit dull.