Posted 20 hours ago

Uncle Paul: Welcome to the Nightmare Summer Holiday

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Uncle Paul seemed to take longer to get going than The Hours Before Dawn, but once it did, it was definitely worth it.

Isabel has married Phillip in some haste and seems to know little about him and Meg is the same, her fancy man, Freddy is fun to be with, but she has no clue who "his people" are.First published in 1959 and recently reissued by Faber, Uncle Paul was Fremlin’s second book, and what a brilliant novel it is – a wonderfully clever exploration of what can happen when we allow our imagination to run wild and unfettered, conjuring up all sorts of nightmare scenarios from our fears and suspicions. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Guy has been doing some Celia Fremlin reviews lately and I have been trying to get The Parasite Person. Like Shirley Jackson, she can easily slip between the domestic every day and an air of unease and foreboding. Meg learns to be more accepting of the perspective of others; to not dismiss the silliness of women, who don't have good vocabs and rational faculties.

Windows users should also consider upgrading to Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft Edge, or switching to Firefox or Chrome. For myself the entertainment rested on Fremlin's children - a classic 50s child, Cedric, who manages on most occasions to outsmart the adults, and Isabel's two small boys, doing precisely child-like things, with a vivid sense of children's self-focus. Fremlin's admirably plotted novels and short stories are about people leading lives of quiet or vociferous desperation in suburban backwaters . Rich in psychological insight and dark humor, the elegant, razor-sharp quality of Fremlin's writing provides page-turning excitement. I was very satisfied with the ending, which I guessed, but not until I was a good way in, and other possibilities seemed to be exhausted.Captain Cockerill was gallantly anxious that Mildred and her two sisters should accompany him for a walk along the promenade; and Meg could only hope that the poor little man was prepared for the way in which this simple proposal, in the hands of Mildred and Isabel, at once took on the character of a large-scale manoeuvre. Isabel’s new husband, Philip – an ex-Army type and a stickler for discipline – is easily riled by his stepsons’ behaviour, clearly a source of worry for Isabel as she embarks on her new life. I tried reading it a couple of months ago during my own holiday to Whitby but given that the book is set around a young woman going to help out her frazzled sister who is taking her two young children on a seaside break, it felt a little much at the time.

The "twist" and the intensity doesn't really happen until the last 15 pages of the book, and until then, it is dragged out by pointless characters and scenarios. What follows is a wonderfully slow burn thriller with the tension ratcheting up by degrees until everyone is at screaming pitch.An interesting first publication date, a time of flux with stuff from WW2 still hanging over people. In my mind, she is bracketed with Celia Dale, whose marvellously sinister domestic noir, A Helping Hand, was one of my favourite reads from last year . Originally written in 1959 and reissued now, it's hard to fathom why exactly this is a Waterstones Crime Pick of the Month, given the abundance of new crime writing that arrives every week. Once again, this allows Fremlin to prey on her protagonists’ anxieties as Meg oscillates between fearing for her life and thinking the whole Mildred situation is absurd!

I guessed the denouement from quite a way off, although it did not seem as though it had been well hidden. Even with a bit of eye-rolling, this was a quick read and comes in toward the bottom of the 3-star group.Meg and Isabel were just girls when "Uncle Paul" married their older half-sister, Mildred, and he soon vanished from their lives upon his exposure as a bigamist and a murderer. Their family holiday at the seaside village where Mildred and Uncle Paul once honeymooned becomes the setting for a tense drama of suspicion, betrayal, and revenge. But the plot twist, in the last 10 pages of the book, completely caught me off guard and came as a total surprise! I loved the balance between tension and normality in this one, and the humour played a key role in diffusing some of that angst. Perhaps this is unsurprising - I identified strongly with the first novel's sleep-deprived protagonist and never felt the same sense of kinship with any of the characters here.

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