An Inventory of Heaven Hardcover – 17 May 2012
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More intimate than Thomas Hardy, and as perceptive too, about the countryside and country people, Jane Feaver is a supremely compelling chronicler of rural isolation. (Michael Morpurgo)
Accomplished in every way, this novel is a true delight. (The Independent)
Chilling and poignant, An Inventory of Heaven is a meditation on the things we hold onto in life and how, in the end, we can try to let them go.See all Product description
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It's a serious, thoughtful book with many comic insights and a marvellous tightness and precision to her prose. She has a sharp eye for detail and there's a 'poetic' vividness to much of her writing which can be savoured for its rightness and originality.
This is a seriously good, satisfying, enjoyable read with a subtly developed narrative force - and best read in a few days with some concentration rather than bittily.
Surprisingly (for me at least), I read through it in no time. Feaver's style is fluid and carries you along at effortless pace; her story enchanting and occasionally bleak, but never boring.
She was also an amazingly lovely person!
In the present day, Mavis now in her seventies, finds her settled, orderly life is somewhat disrupted by the arrival of single mother, Eve, and her young son, Archie. Mavis soon discovers that Eve is the daughter of Beatrice, a very attractive young woman with whom Mavis was acquainted many years ago. When Eve begins to question Mavis about her mother, who is now no longer alive, Mavis finds herself confronting upsetting events from the past, events which she has tried, until now, to avoid examining too closely. But will Mavis, now she is travelling towards the end of her life, be able to face her painful memories and finally lay them to rest?
Lyrical, beautifully written and composed with perception and sensitivity, Jane Feaver's third book is a quiet and intimate meditation on the inner lives of the inhabitants of a rural community. With some well-realized characters and some deftly written passages, this novel makes for an interesting and satisfying read. I found the section in which the author described Mavis's working life in a London office rather entertaining, and the part of the story where Mavis returned to Shipleigh to take possession of her deceased aunt's house, and wandered through the cottage, remembering events from the past and absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of her new home, was very evocative to read. 'An Inventory of Heaven' is a slow-paced, but quietly compelling story which I feel is most probably better read in a couple of concentrated sittings. This novel may not suit if you enjoy fast-paced, plot-driven narratives, but for those who prefer reflective, unhurried stories which focus more on character and situation, this should make an enjoyable and rewarding read for you.
Mavis's childhood in pre-war London was a lonely one, with a philandering father and a cold, distant mother. As she later reflects "Love in our household wasn't a word that was ever used - not as it is nowadays, at the drop of a hat ...". The contrast between this sterile home life and the world she enters when she's evacuated to her great-aunt's house in Devon is acutely observed. Mavis finds friendship for the first time as she joins in the rough and tumble games of the local children, and begins to finally feel at home in close-knit community.
The story takes a darker turn when Mavis returns to Devon in her 20s and rekindles her friendship with the enigmatic Upcott siblings. It becomes clear that the Upcott's have a number of buried secrets and Mavis observes the disintegration of this once strong and significant family, with tragic consequences.
An Inventory of Heaven is a touching portrait of loneliness and friendship, with a real sense of both the camaraderie and the claustrophobia of rural village life. The writing is reflective and descriptive and, despite the frequent changes of timeframe between the 1940s, 60s and present day, for me the story flowed beautifully. All in all a very absorbing and captivating read.