06 September 2010

Second Fiddle

By Mary Wesley
Published by Black Swan
Originally published in Great Britain by
Macmillan London Limited, 1988

Claud Bannister, 23, meets Laura Thornby, 45, at a concert. Claud is there with his mother. Laura is there because the conductor is her current lover. Martin is there because the British government has him following Clug, the conductor, who is from Roumania and may or may not be a spy. Claud instantly falls for Laura, as does Martin, who finds that tailing Clug is not that much of a hardship as long as Laura is around.

Laura doesn't fall in love; she prefers to love 'em and lose 'em. But Laura is quite intrigued with Claud and guides him from boyhood to manhood, filling his head with ideas for his novel, and helping him open a market stall. She manipulates him to the point where he thinks her ideas are his own and he has fallen madly in love with her.

Laura's personal life is a deep pit of mystery. She prefers to be alone in her orderly, non-cluttered life, not getting attached to people or things. She is mostly cut off from her family, which consists of her mother and her uncle. Speculation is that her uncle is also her father - it's never quite made clear. Wesley has the habit of introducing darker themes in her novels and then leaving them to the reader to decide; after all, a good book doesn't have to spell everything out for you.

Second Fiddle is full of village life, where everyone knows everyone else's business and the Thornby family are accepted, although talked about as the oddities they are. Wesley covers incest, alcoholism, and suicide in her usual style - deal with it and move on. Don't let the darker themes of this novel put you off - this is an interesting novel full of simmering back-stories that will entertain and intrigue you to the very end.

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