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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars

TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 September 2013
Shipleigh, the location of Jane Feaver's latest novel, is a tiny village in Devon, somewhere between Exmoor and Dartmoor, buried so deeply in a sleepy valley that many do not even realize it exists. Living in an old cottage, inherited from her aunt, is Mavis Gaunt, an elderly lady who first visited Shipleigh when she was evacuated during the war. Mavis, the child of a difficult marriage, found a warm welcome at Shipleigh and when she reluctantly went back to her London home, she vowed to return to the village and its close-knit community one day. And Mavis did return to Shipleigh in 1961, and when shortly afterwards she inherited her aunt's cottage, she remained in the village and became intimate with the dysfunctional Upcott family: Robert, Frances and Tom. And as Mavis spent more time with the Upcotts, she became drawn into their lives and unwittingly involved in an incident which ended in tragedy.

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.

4 Stars.
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on 4 July 2012
Having loved Jane Feavers 'According to Ruth', I was curious to read her second novel 'An Inventory of Heaven'. I wasn't disappointed. The setting of this story is once again rural, but the protagonist is now an old lady, rather than the adolescent Ruth. These are refreshing heroines, who are flawed, not necessarily beautiful and posssibly, not even very nice.

Mavis's story gradually unfolds, moving between her childhood as a war time evacuee, living with an aunt in Devon and her return there as an adult. She carries a terrible secret that is challenged by the arrival of a single mother and her young son, Archie. Mavis's love for the boy is as touching as any more conventional love story, and the book wonderfully conveys the human yearning for love and acceptance.

Feavers language is fiercely poetic and original. Many images linger in my mind.She describes the end of a labour 'The crown of the baby's head was round as an eyeball, tight in its socket, but Joyce was there the moment it breached the muscle, popped out-as if for one terrible second it wasn't meant to-and behind it, a slimy rush of squid-like limbs.'

Jane Feaver is a great writer who deserves every recognition.
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on 17 July 2012
This is Jane Feaver's third book and her most accomplished, intelligent and sustained yet. In over 300 pages she creates increasingly vivid characters with an intimate, perceptive and compassionate understanding of their remoteness and sometimes physical isolation.

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.

A triumph.
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on 10 July 2012
This is a fabulous novel. It made me laugh and cry. I loved the way it got into an old woman's mind as she tells her story. She's not an obvious heroine. But as her story emerges you realise that in a quiet way she is heroic. What really moved me is that she's a woman who never thought she amounted to much who finds a voice and, in the end, love. There are plenty of other things to enjoy in the novel: from vivid descriptions of the Devon countryside to sharply observed comic scenes of office life in London. At its heart is a tragedy that takes place on an isolated farm in the middle of winter. The writing here is so powerful and moving I was holding my breath as I read it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 8 December 2012
When we first meet her, Mavis Gaunt is living the life of a lonely spinster in a small house in rural Devon. The arrival in the village of divorcee Eve and her son Archie awakens in Mavis a sense of nostalgia and reflection and, with some prompting from Eve who is keen to find out about her own mother's childhood in the village, the old lady's hidden memories come flooding back.

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.
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on 28 February 2014
This was painfully, glacially slow. The author writes good prose, with some fine descriptive passages, but the prefiguring of some earth shaking revelation about the past is laboured to the point of tedium and by the time the nature of the tragedy was revealed I was well past caring. The book indulged in two hoary old clichés of British literary fiction (a) a long-buried family secret which canot be openly discussed but around which the book is built and (b) continued switches between time periods, which in this case was terminally confusing, as there were too many characters to remember or care about. If the author can break out of the box into which many British authors have barricaded themselves and think beyond the currently over-used plot and structure devices she could write something really gripping.
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on 23 January 2016
During the reading of this book i moved from loving it to being irritated by it, to finally liking it.
The prose is beautiful. Relationships are wonderfully observed. Feelings described with real tenderness.
Time frames are hopped on and off without explanation, annoyingly.
The drama is described in confusing metaphors at times, and a sort of vagueness that left me a little unsure of what was happening.
It has great scope, with whole lives touchingly rendered.
Not an easy read, but worth doing.
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on 12 May 2016
I wouldn't normally choose this genre, but as I was attending a writing retreat where Jane Feaver would be presenting, I decided to give it a go.

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!
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on 29 September 2012
I'd highly recommend reading this book - it's fantastic, I can't put it down. Jane Feaver's descriptions of the characters and setting are wonderful - it's all very familiar living in a rural area!!! Love it.
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