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Sculptor Conrad Swann mysteriously disappears, and his self-appointed patron Martha Rawson takes it upon herself to promote his latest work. Although nearly everyone finds the piece hideous, Martha persuades the town council of East Head to purchase it. The townspeople struggle to accept it as a piece of modern art. Controversy over the sculpture reveals deep cracks in the marriage of Dickie and Christina Pattison. This novel presents a gallery of well-drawn characters and portrays life in a postwar English village with gentle bemusement.
Tessa is the daughter of a brilliant bohemian composer, Albert Sanger, who with his "circus" of precocious children, slovenly mistress, and assortment of hangers-on, lives in a rambling chalet high in the Austrian Alps. The fourteen-year-old Tessa has fallen in love with Lewis Dodd, a gifted composer like her father. Confidently, she awaits maturity, for even his marriage to Tessa's beautiful cousin Florence cannot shatter the loving bond between Lewis and his constant nymph.
In the years of rationing following World War II, an assortment of families spend a week at a shabby guest house in Cornwall. Many harbor secrets; some have cherished dreams; some wallow in bitterness; and some discover their true selves and seem to take flight. Lurking above the human comedy and drama are the cliffs, whose widening cracks foreshadow catastrophe.
In this novel, Kennedy departs from her usual English milieu to set most of her story on the Greek island of Keritha. Dr. Percival Challoner has inherited a house on the island and brings along Selwyn Potter as his interpreter. Living in the house they discover Kate Benson, an English acquaintance of Selwyn's. An empty nester trying to sort out her place in the world, Kate develops a sympathy for the recently bereaved Selwyn. Both find healing on Keritha and strive to protect its timeless magic from the inroads of modernity.
Beautiful Agatha Cocks seems to have made a splendid marriage with John Clewer of Lyndon, but she cherishes tender feelings for her cousin Jeremy. As one of the ladies of Lyndon, Agatha becomes acquainted with John's brother James, the family misfit. As surprises and secrets are revealed, Agatha's careful training as a young lady is put to the test.
Jilted at the altar, a talented young woman sets about to rebuild her life in postwar England. Lucy Carmichael takes a position as drama instructor at an institute in a small town and quickly becomes embroiled in local politics. Gradually she recovers from her personal heartbreak and emerges with new strength and wisdom.
From the book jacket: A Night in Cold Harbor is a fascinating historical novel, strongly plotted and peopled with characters who would be superbly romantic if they were not so realistic and believable. Set in early nineteenth century England, it is the story of a young aristocrat who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and eventually gags on it. Before his maturity is achieved, however, he has devastated more than one life, including that of his illegitimate son. Romilly Brandon's belated search for this boy provides the framework for a tale of conflicting passions, cross-purposes, and tangled relationships. A central thread in the narrative is the issue of child labor, which, together with other contemporary evils suffered by the working class, resulted in rebellious, nomadic hordes of "Walking People," ragged, gypsy-like outcasts with a highly developed spy system and a rigid social code of their own. To young Dickie Cottar, who has taken to the roads and the rough fellowship of the Walking People, his natural father is a natural enemy. The bridging of this chasm between father and son is the heart of the story.
Both readable and learned, this book takes us through European literature from Homer to Virginia Woolf, pointing out the ways in which a compelling plot makes for a good novel. Kennedy notes that literature is the only art form that is expected to carry a "message." In truth, she says, we read to be entertained, to be swept into another world.
Set in England in the years before and after the First World War, this is a novel about social change and its repercussions. Charlotte and Trevor Frobisher grow up under the vigilant gaze of their Victorian dowager mother, Catherine, who also takes in their orphaned cousins, twins Emily and William Crowne. The twins, beautiful, charming, and wealthy, seem to have everything, but their lives are haunted by their father's scandalous trial for murder. When Trevor and William establish a community for struggling artists and writers, tensions mount and end in tragedy.
Alec Canning is a weak but well-intentioned man who has had several affairs but still cares about his wife Betsy and their three children. Betsy is spoiled and petulant, and impulsively demands a divorce. Over the years that follow, the shattering of the family has a far-reaching impact on the Canning children. Kennedy is a sensitive interpreter of the nuances in human relationships, and all of her characters, no matter how flawed, win the reader's sympathy.
This novel is crafted as the memoir of Miles Lufton, a British gentleman and member of Parliament, which is discovered by his relatives decades later in 1880. Lufton is a quiet, reflective man who longs for domestic peace at his estate, Troy Chimneys. His alter ego, however, is Pronto, a ladies' man and political climber, who forever thwarts Lufton's desires.
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