Talking to the Dead; Helen Dunmore
Little Brown & Company - 1997
Nina and Isabel (Izzy) are sisters; Nina is a freelance photographer who lives in London and Isabel and her husband Richard live in the country. As the story begins Isabel has just given birth to a son Antony and, after a difficult birth Nina is on her way to spend some time with Izzy and help her out. Isabel's current state of mind is fragile and, she seems uninterested in bonding with her baby. She has also asked her husband to sleep downstairs. Except for visits from her gay friend Edward whom Isabel feels comfortable confiding in, she prefers to spend most of her time alone. She smokes but she rarely eats and motherhood seems to have her focused on an event from the past.
When Nina sees her newborn nephew she can't believe how much he resembles how she remembers baby Colin, the brother who died when she was just 4 and Isabel was 7. The sisters talk about the death of Colin and the reader is made to wonder if his death was cot (crib) death or something much darker that occurred.
Talking to the Dead is a most unusual and mysterious sort of story. Isabel seems physically and mentally ill and, she has lost interest in her husband as well. There is an uncomfortable feel to the story, it is full of tension and raw emotion. The reader can't help but wonder whether something tragic is about to happen. In contrast to the darker mood there was the beautiful setting: the sea, flower gardens and fruit trees and good food to be enjoyed. At times the story is quite sensual. I loved the writing style and now and then I found this book very difficult to put down. I was satisfied with the ending but, some readers might not feel the same way.
This book has sat on my book shelves far too long. I'm so happy that I finally decided to read it.
Rating - 4/5 stars