Top critical review
on 7 July 2016
Alice, named after a town in central Australia is, the only child of a fairly prosperous couple (a builder and an estate agent) who are keen to give her the best education possible with a view to finding a 'nice young man' who may eventually fit into the family business.
When the story opens Alice is the fifth form of a private girls school (for both day girls and boarders). She in thrall to Jem(ima) who has just arrived having been expelled from a convent school. Alice is unaware of this, and equally unaware that this will be Jem's last year unless she wins a scholarship to take her into the 6th form.
Jem is both friendly and precocious and introduces Alice to the three R's the school does not teach, namely Religion (Catholicism), Romance and Relationships, and shows Alice some stories she has written on just these themes. Unfortunately Jem does not get the scholarship which goes to another girl whose father is quite wealthy enough to fund her himself. She therefore vanishes from the school but leaves her stories with Alice for safe keeping. Alice continues on to the 6th form and does sufficiently well to get a place at Oxford. (The alternative, which Alice can't face, would be to join her mother's estate agency.)
At Oxford she runs into a guy called Roland (or rather he runs into her on his bicycle while coaching the school rowing team from the Orwell towpath). Roland, full of remorse, takes her under his wing and they become friends. Friendship is all she wants, but of course he would like something more. This comes to a head one day when they out driving in his vintage Deux Cheveaux. She is so horrified at the idea of losing her virginity in the nearby woodland that she drives the car into a close by river! Roland, ever resourceful, manages to save them both drowning, but she ends up in hospital for a few days. That is the end of their 'relationship'. However the driver of a passing car who witnesses the accident (Matthew Riley) visits her in hospital and meets not only with her but also her parents. They think he has rescued her from the car and he does not disillusion them of this. The parents rather take to him and invite him into their household both to keep Alice company and introduce him into the business.
He does rather more then keep her company but her parents are OK with that. They see no reason why 'sensible young people shouldn't cohabit before marriage'.
Then Alice gets a letter from Jem, and this is I guess when the real story starts and it is where my synopsis of the story will end!
I quite enjoyed the story up this point but now Jem and two new characters dominate the story, a Father Mullholland, a Catholic priest, and Giovanni Angeletti, the boss of an American publishing house.
It is all good literature but I found this last part of the quite tedious. Nevertheless it deserves a place on your bookshelves, unless like me you read everything on your Kindle Cloud!