Johathan and Theodora (Theo) Anthony are small children, living with their mother and several servants in a nice old house in coastal Wales. Food to eat, gardens to explore, games to play.... but no love to wrap them up in, only their love for each other. And Theo needs a little more of that than most. From the outside one can see that she is rather different. Is she perhaps simple? No, it isn't quite that. She has difficulty with concentation, but is a loving and loved sister, and Jonathan knows he must always look out for her. We know, from the very beginning of the book that Jonathan, as an adult, has lost someone dear to him, and within a few chapters we will find out who that is. Rather like an old black and white movie, the device of starting at the end and working through the story to get there is a good one. The children's mother has a liking for alchohol, and when her own mother, the children's grandmother, comes home for good, things start to change. Staff are fired, children get more regimented schooling, their mother is sent to dry out, and Eve, their grandmother, gives them herself as an example of how to get on in the world.
The world loves Eve, she's a famous business woman with links back as far as Jack Kennedy, but I saw her as a character rather like Mrs Danvers in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, although at first you may be fooled into thinking she's not so bad.
As I said in my title, I found this a truly "English" kind of novel. You certainly know from the outside that this book was not written by anyone other than an Englishman/woman (even though one of the main characters, the house itself, is set in Wales). It is not meant as an insult to say that it has a rather "old fashioned" feel to it - for it will keep you reading, trying to stay one jump ahead and guessing what is going on, and what is what. It's a good read for a long, wet day; curl up and enjoy. It's a first novel, and I'm intrigued to see the next piece from Ms McCarthy.