This is the latest in a series of occasional posts featuring books I read years ago about which I was wildly enthusiastic at the time, wanting to press a copy in as many hands as I could.
Lesley Glaister was one of those writers I kept expecting to break through from relative obscurity and land on the bestseller lists when I was a bookseller but she never seemed to quite make it. With its gripping dual narrative, Sheer Blue Bliss is one of my favourite novels by her.
Connie Benson is plucked from the isolation of her Norfolk home when a retrospective exhibition of her work is mounted at the National Portrait Gallery. The centrepiece is the final portrait of her lover, Patrick Mount, who mysteriously disappeared in 1965. Mount was an eccentric whose theory of the Seven Steps to Bliss has sunk into obscurity but for Tony, a disturbed and beautiful young man who stalks Connie in the hope of finding the key to Mount’s elixir, he’s still a heroic figure. Tony and Connie’s narratives are closely interwoven as each draws inexorably towards the other until the two merge in a compelling denouement.
Like Helen Dunmore and Angela Carter, Glaister’s particularly good at portraying old women of which Connie is a fine example. Her memories of her youth contrast starkly to the pain and sheer hard work of old age while Tony’s narrative is thick with menace.
What about you, any blasts from the past you’d like to share?
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