Statuesque Alice Hartley of the Kohl-eyes and gypsy shawls can no longer arouse the interest of her pompous husband, the adulterous professor. Despite her spirited rendering Dance Of The Seven Veils, her heightened consciousness, her organic carrot cake and her many-coloured pop-socks she still leaves him cold.
Just as she is compelled to face this chilling truth, she meets Michael, a young gullible student with an excessive libido. In Michael, Alice discovers an endless supply of all she has sought: revenge, sex and a large house suitable for conversion.
Soon the house is thigh-deep with women joyfully casting off the shackles of their middle-class oppression through aerobo-gardening, psyche-soothing massage and appropriate amounts of alcohol and magic mushrooms. Sadly, some narrow-minded neighbours and the numerous forces of the law seem completely impervious to all those healing and liberating vibrations.
But the dolphins had a great time.
..... From the outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE: Professor Charles Hartley leaned back in his chair and watched his wife progress through the languid motions of the Dance Of The Seven Veils.
MEMORABLE MOMENT: "And set an extra place for supper. They always stay for tea, you'd think vicarages came without a kettle."
Now out of print, we had searched for a second hand copy of this for ages only for Husband dearest to get hold of not one but two copies (it's a long story) for me at Christmas.
A huge fan of Philippa Gregory's historical novels, I was keen to read more of her modern fiction. Would I be disappointed?
Well, Mrs Hartley started well and ended well but I didn't enjoy the middle - it was almost like this was a short story stretched out to become a slightly longer story (233 pages) OR that the author had both the beginning and ending of a story in mind and, not sure where to go with it, made the middle up as she came to it/as an afterthought(?)
Funny to the point of being farcical in places, I think the novel captured the essence of the 1960's (though I'm not sure exactly when it is set) and wildly exaggerated it to the point where, at times, it was totally implausible.
Lacking in any real depth, I didn't particularly like any of the characters and positively disliked main character, Alice Hartley. The problem being, apart from her killing a cat, if Alice was a male character behaving in such a way towards a young girl I would find him deplorable but being a woman with a much younger man the novel suggests liberation and a certain sense of 'good on this middle-aged woman for finding herself'. Perhaps this will work for some readers but I found some of her behaviour (not all of it I hasten to add) to be pretty awful no matter what the sex of the individual.
"Was it her first book?" asked Hd. No, there were several books before this one, all historical, so I suppose this may well have been a bit of an experiment. Given that, perhaps I'm being too harsh and was expecting too much but overall I was quite disappointed with this offering. If I had not been such a fan of Gregory's historical fiction then maybes I would have felt differently ..... but I don't think so as I am used to this author writing wonderfully strong, interesting female characters and these women fell way short of this.
Would I recommend it? As always, it's your decision but, if I can put it this way, I won't be passing this on to anyone despite there being several people who normally eagerly await my copy of any Philippa Gregory novels.