This is my third Jennifer Johnston novel. She is an Irish writer, much loved by Reading Matters. I have appreciated each of them. I listen to them and have been rewarded for that because in each case sound is an element of the storytelling. In this case the reader slips into the occasional song, most notably Christmas carols.
Much of the story is told from Henry’s point of view or by Henry, a bit tricky because he has just awoken from a terrible accident with much of his memory gone. His entanglements were so complicated that you can imagine that wiping the slate clean would have its appeal. Perhaps I won’t go into all of them, but he had ended a long-standing marriage with Stephanie with whom he has two children to marry the beautiful Charlotte.
It was Charlotte driving the car when they crashed. She died in the crash, perhaps having intended to end both their lives. Although he does not recover his memory of Charlotte at all, he does remember having fallen into the arms of her brother Jeremy not long before the accident. We learn that Charlotte and Jeremy enjoyed seducing men as a tag team (somehow), but now that Charlotte is out of the picture, Jeremy wants to be a good loving partner to Henry. Stephanie is a good-hearted, quite traditional person, often mystified by the actions of those she loves. And there’s Henry’s brother George, who had moved to Canada when Stephanie chose Henry over him.
The machinations that uncover all this are overwhelmed in the end by Tash, Henry and George’s mother. She seemed to have always been very self-centered and now that she is slipping into senility and alcoholism, she’s especially hard to manage. She takes over the story, a fitting end to this wild tale.
Jennifer Johnston, Foolish Mortals, Headline Review, 2007, 256 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available through Amazon.