RATING: VERY GOOD
I really loved the novel and I was tearful at the end.
The war years are tumultuous for everybody. Marianne finally makes her arrangements to leave. Her plan is to drug Lucas, get Mr Salter to take Ama to the festival in town, and take her packed things. Everything seems to go to plan, and when she thinks Lucas is sleeping, she starts collecting her things when Lucas appears behind him, threatening. Lucas becomes aggressive and Marianne tries to defend herself, and when she pushes her, he falls and hits his head. Marianne doesn’t even want to see if he is alive or not, and her aya appears and urges her to go. She gives her a sari to wear and tells her to go. And that is the last time we hear from her until the end of the book. Marianne doesn’t know whether Lucas is dead or not, but all she wants is to leave.
In England her sisters grow concerned when they don’t hear from Marianne for a long time. James is killed in the war and shortly afterwards Joshua dies, and Marianne doesn’t respond their letters. Eva even decides to send a letter to the embassy in Ceylon to find out something about Marianne. At some point Iris even thinks that her sister is dead.
The three sisters’ love life is fulfilled in the end. Iris realises that she was partly to blame for the situation with Ash because she has kept him at arm’s length because she was afraid. So when she goes to meet him the next time, Iris makes her know that she loves him, and for the first time she kisses him deeply. Both Iris and Ash are stationed in France, Iris with her hospital and Ash with his army unit. When Ash is on leave, he goes to find her and he asks her to marry him, and she finally agrees him!!! Yet, some weeks later one of Ash’s fellow soldiers is hurt and when he sees Iris, he tells her that Ash is missing, which means that he is dead. After that, Iris is unable to react and can’t even cry, but then when she discovers a louse in her hair, she hacks it off, so the matron thinks she is perturbed and send her home.
Now that James and her father are dead and Adrian in the war, Eva has to run the factory with the help of Mr Rob Foley. She becomes very fond of him, and when he announces that he is leaving for war, she feels unhappy and somehow lets him know that she wants to be more than friends. When he reminds her about the stigma of having a father who committed suicide, and she confesses that she was once a married man’s lover, so she concludes that they are even. In the end, they get together, and she goes to the station to see him off.
Clemency befriends a widowed woman with a small child that she meets on a train. Her name is Ottilie, and the two women become close. Clemency realises that she feels the same as she felt with Igor, and Ottilie tells her that she loves her. It is not clear but we are led to understand that they enter a lesbian relationship with her.
After Iris has been at home for some weeks, she gets a letter, telling her that there has been a mistake. Ash is not dead, only injured and he is on his way home. So few weeks later Ash and Iris tie the knot in the family home. It is in this last chapter that we learn that Marianne and her son are safe and sound in a small town in Australia. She was travelling from place to place, but she finally decided to stay in this town where she has made her life, working in a restaurant. A couple of years after leaving Ceylon, she is still afraid of being found by Lucas. In reality, she doesn’t know if Lucas is dead or not. The reason why she didn’t return to England was that Lucas would have found her there and taken George, and if he is dead, she would have been sent to jail. Now Marianne decides to send something to her sisters for the first time, so she sends them an opal, some dry flowers and a photograph of herself and George. And on Iris’s wedding day they finally get the news that their dear sister is well and alive. There is the hope in Marianne’s heart that at some point she will even let her sisters know where she is.
I loved the ending even though it is sad with Marianne, albeit safe, so far from her sisters. I really enjoyed the book and the characters, especially the sisters.