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Coral Glynn: A Novel
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Coral Glynn: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Peter Cameron
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $8.89
You Save: $6.11 (41%)
Sold by: Macmillan

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Cameron specializes in emotional subtlety and unspoken desires—all the while hinting at an almost overwhelming disorder swirling beneath the placid surface. Cameron is unusual in his direct debt to great midcentury British novelists like Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Bowen, and Barbara Pym, who seem quiet precisely because they take the unspeakable as their subject. We may be so slow to recognize Cameron as a twenty-first-century American master because he has the sensibility of a twentieth-century British one. —Christopher R. Beha


Starred Review. "...quietly compelling...The book is suffused with a lonely sadness and an aura of the surreal, and the many dramatic events in Coral's life are entirely plausible thanks to Cameron's skill as a storyteller." - Publishers Weekly
"Cameron's shimmering and expectant prose infuses this deceptively simple novel with an incandescent depth." - Booklist
" of Cameron's (The City of Your Final Destination) finest novels." - Library Journal
"...sad, beautiful, absorbing story of love missed, love lost, love found...This gracious novel tells of one soul's wanderings." - New York Times
"Beauty and loss suffuse Peter Cameron's atmospheric period novel...Cameron's skillfully wrought tale lures readers into a somber, dreamlike world." - Barnes & Noble, "Best of the Month...for Adults"
"...wonderfully weird...quite original and rich with interesting, unexpected plot twists...utterly compelling, interesting, and terrifically well written." - New York Journal of Books
"...a riveting tale with an often heartbreakingly pure prose style." - The Wall Street Journal
"...lovely, enigmatic...Cameron's novels...have won a following...[that] keeps on growing, one devoted reader at a time." - Salon
"...a beautifully controlled, suspenseful novel that smartly renders melodramatic events into credible, even empathetic moments." - The Daily Beast

About the Author

Peter Cameron is the author of Andorra, The City of Your Final Destination, and Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Grand Street, and The Paris Review. He lives in New York City.

British-born Simon Prebble has played in everything from soaps to Shakespeare on stage and television, but it is as a veteran narrator of over four hundred audiobooks that he has made his mark since coming to the United States in 1990. Simon is one of AudioFile magazine's Golden Voices, has received over twenty Earphones Awards, five Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Awards, and he has been a finalist fourteen times for an Audie Award. He was Publishers Weekly's 2006 Narrator of the Year, and Booklist's 2010 Voice of Choice.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


That spring—the spring of 1950—had been particularly wet.
An area at the bottom of the garden at Hart House flooded, creating a shallow pool through which the crocuses gamely raised their little flounced heads, like cold shivering children in a swimming class. The blond gravel on the garden paths had turned green, each pebble wrapped in a moist transparent blanket of slime, and one could not sit on either of the two cement benches that flanked the river gate without first unhinging the snails and slugs adhered to them.
The excessive moistness of the garden was of no concern to anyone at Hart House except for the new nurse, who had arrived on Thursday, and had attempted, on the two afternoons that were somewhat mild, to sit outside for a moment, away from the sickness and strain in the house. But she found the garden inhospitable, and so had resolved to stay indoors.
She was the nurse, officially at least, only to the old lady, Mrs Hart, who was dying of cancer. Her son, Major Hart, who had been wounded in the war—he seemed to be missing a leg or at least part of one, and moved his entire body with an odd marionette stiffness—did not, officially at least, require a nurse.
Coral Glynn was the third nurse to arrive in as many months; it was unclear what, exactly, had driven her predecessors away, although there was much conjecture on the subject in the town. First it was supposed that the Major was perhaps a Lothario, and had made disreputable advances, although he had never acted that way before—in fact, he had always seemed to hold himself above romance of any kind. Then, when the second nurse, who had been quite old, fled as fleetly, it had been assumed that Mrs Hart was impossibly difficult, since dying people often are, and Edith Hart, even when in the bloom of health, had tried one’s patience. The new nurse—the third—was young again, and was expected to be seen escaping, either from unwanted seduction or abuse, on any given day.
There was one other person in the house besides Coral and Mrs and Major Hart: an elderly woman named Mrs Prence, who acted as cook and housekeeper. Before the war there had been a real cook and a maid, but now all the burdens of the household fell upon Mrs Prence, who bore them with a grudging dutifulness.
Hart House was several miles outside of Harrington, in Leicestershire. It stood upon a slight rise in the water meadows beside the river Tarle, near the edge of the Sap Green Forest. There were no other houses within sight, for the meadows often flooded, and the air was damp and considered bad.
*   *   *
The night of her first day in the house, Coral came downstairs after putting Mrs Hart to bed to find her son standing in the front hall. The old woman, though very ill, insisted upon continuing the monotonous daily motions of rising and dressing; her bed was made and she was moved to a chaise longue where she napped and fretted, wrapped in a blanket, until she had had her supper, after which she was undressed and washed and put back into bed. This was a complicated endeavour, as it was a high four-poster, onto which she needed to be hoisted, as she could no longer climb the few wooden steps that ordinarily provided access. She refused to sleep in any other bed: she had been born in this bed, she claimed (although in fact she had not), and would die in it, too. Or die getting into it, more likely, Coral thought. So she was unusually exhausted when she descended the stairs—exhausted from the combination of travelling, arriving and settling in, meeting her new patient, hoisting her into the ridiculous bed—and was not happy to see Major Hart waiting at the foot of the stairs, leaning over his cane. She paused at the landing and looked down at him. It appeared as though he was attempting to strike a rakish pose, but the utilitarian purpose of his cane could not be disguised.
“How is Mother?” he asked.
How am I to know? Coral thought. It is too exhausting, what people expect. Of course your mother was not well. I would not be here if she were. And since I have only arrived today there is nothing to which I may compare her health. And why did he say Mother? Why not my mother?
“Your mother is weak,” she said. “And fretful. But stable, I think. I have given her an injection. She should sleep through the night.”
“Is she in great pain?”
“No,” said Coral. “The injection will alleviate any pain.”
“Ah,” he said, as if her answer had been clever. He was looking down at his hands. One clasped the knob of his stick and the other clasped its mate.
A clock chimed somewhere—the house was large and full of chiming or softly bonging clocks—and Coral was suddenly aware of the wind outside, the damp. The house was so far from anything. She shivered.
Major Hart looked up at her as if he had heard her. She stood very still, not wanting to move. She was so tired. She reached out and laid her hand upon the banister. She looked up at the distant coffered ceiling. She thought of how tired she was, and of the little room on the attic floor that had been shown to her, the little room that was now hers, how its narrow bed had not been made, just the bare mattress on the crude iron bedstead, elaborately mapped with ancient stains, the linens stacked at the foot. And why should I expect anything different? she thought. Who in the world should have made the bed? I should be happy the bed is there, the little room there; so many people do not have little rooms, and beds …
“I thought perhaps…” Major Hart began, but faltered.
“Yes?” she said, and she could hear in her voice her exhaustion, her dismissal of him, so she said it again, “Yes?” in a softer way.
“I thought perhaps you might like some brandy—or some tea—before the fire. But perhaps you’re too tired.”
“No,” she said. “Thank you. Some brandy—a little brandy—would be lovely.”
“It’s just that I’m sure it’s been a long day for you,” he said. He took some awkward shuffling steps backwards, opening a space at the bottom of the stairs, and she descended.
“Yes,” she said. She touched her hair and followed him into the dark library, the drapes all drawn, a downcast lamp on the desk and a fire glowing quietly in the grate. He turned his chair around so that it was facing the one that had been drawn up close to the fire, positioned there, she sensed, for herself. He poured some brandy into a glass and held it out to her, and for a moment she didn’t take it, just let it glow there, ambered in the firelight between them. It seemed such a gift.
“Thank you,” she said. “Very kind.”
He said nothing, and she could not make out his expression in the gloom. He had a soft, handsome face and although his hands shook, his face had an utter, almost eerie calm.
“Aren’t you going to have any?” she asked.
He did not answer but poured another glass. He held it towards her, but the fire had shifted, and the liquid remained dark. “Welcome to Hart House,” he said.
Coral touched her little glass neatly to his, and then retracted it, and sipped. It was lovely, burning; it collected her around herself, gave her a centre. She thought that she might weep for a moment—the brandy had that power, too—but she knew enough not to.
They sat in the chairs drawn near to the fire.
“I hope you will be happy here,” he said. “I hope my mother will not be too much of a burden to you.”
“Oh, no,” she said. “She is not a burden at all. No patient is.”
“Yes, I suppose, if you look at it that way,” he said.
She wasn’t sure how to reply, so she said nothing.
“Where do you come from?” he asked.
“Huddlesford,” she said.
“Oh, Huddlesford,” he said.
“The spring is late here,” she said.
“Yes,” he said. “It is always late here.”
“You’re from here?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I grew up in this house.” He looked up at the ceiling and then around the dark room, as if some trace of his long habitation of the house might be apparent. “Do you have family in Huddlesford?”
“No,” she said. “My parents are dead.”
“And there is no one else?”
“I had a brother,” she said. “But he was killed in the war.”
“Where was he?” asked the Major.
“El Alamein,” she said.
“Ah,” he said, “the desert. The first or second battle?”
“The first,” she said. “July sixteenth.”
“I’m sorry you lost him.”
Coral made no reply. The Major looked down into his brandy and sipped it. Then he looked over at Coral.
“Did you nurse in the war?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “I was too young.”
“Of course,” he said. “Of course you were. I’m sorry.”
“I would have liked to,” she said.
“For how long, then, have you been nursing?”
“Two years,” said Coral.
“And you always do this kind?”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you always nurse patients in their homes?”
“Yes,” said Coral. “Private nursing. It’s hard to get jobs in hospitals—there are so many nurses from the war.”
“Yes,” he said, “I’d imagine so. Do you like it—private nursing? You are not lonely for home?”
“No,” she said. “This suits me.”
“You go from place to place? Job to job?”
“Yes,” she said.
“And where is hom...
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