on 15 January 2011
Nicholas Monsarrat's "other" books (those which are not "The Cruel Sea" or "The Master Mariner") are surprisingly varied - but many of them share his rather clear eyed (or one might even say jaded) view of human nature. Esther Costello's story is one such.
Esther, a beautiful, spirited child is profoundly injured in an explosion (an IRA arms cache found by children) leaving her deaf, blind and dumb. Her family, unable to cope with her disabilities leave her to live like an animal in a shed next to the privy. All this is quite bad enough - but then Esther is saved by a well meaning but very human woman, who wishes to do a good deed - but still more to be admired for doing it. For a while all seems to be set fair for a reasonably happy ending - Esther and her benefactress learn deaf and dumb language, Esther is well looked after, there is a handsome (and nice) journalist in the offing ... But the deadly sins come to circle around her - if her rescuer is vanity, the rescuer's husband is lust and sloth combined, and he soon brings in friend avarice and greed ...
Will Esther be rescued from the web spinning around her, or does Monsarrat have a final kidney punch for us? What do you think?
A modern fairytale of the Grimm variety - do read - but not if you are looking for something cheering!