Top critical review
3 June 2011
This book was originally written when the author was 18. Ten years later, at the request of his publishers, he revised and cut it and action originally set in the 1990s was moved to the 1930s. This undoubtedly improved the novel though I still found it overlong. It starts with the narrator James confessing to the murder of his wife of over 50 years and the rest of the book is concerned with the events leading up to his action.
As a young man James, a violinist, falls desperately in love with Ella a high society free spirit. Despite Ella being engaged to another man they start a relationship. James then meets Eric who becomes his friend and musical accompanist. He seems totally unaware that Eric's feelings for him are not just those of friendship and his subsequent actions encouraged by Ella end in tragedy. James and Ella are parted for a number of years but just as they seem to be about to get together again fate intervenes to part them for ever. The end of the book does have a twist but it wasn't too difficult to guess.
It is a very ambitious book for such a young writer. Undoubtedly he was influenced by Brideshead but it certainly isn't of that quality. On the plus sides the characters themselves (James, Ella, and Eric) are beautifully drawn and the reader really gets to know them. However I could find no sympathy for any of then, as they all seem completely self interested and I didn't really care what happened to them. Richard Mason has talent but for me it was not fulfilled in this book and I found it a disappointing read.