Cover image for The drowning people
Title:
The drowning people
Author:
Mason, Richard, 1978-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Warner Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
340 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780446525244
Format :
Book

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Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

It is a cold afternoon in winter. An old man sits in a room high above the sea, watching the sun set. It is twenty-four hours since the death of his wife at Seton Castle, the home they had shared for more than forty years. And as it grows dark, he tries to make sense of a life only recently understood; and to explain how he, by no means a violent man, has come to kill in cold blood...


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Psychologically suspenseful and classy, Mason's first novel is an impressive achievement for any novice, especially a 20-year-old Oxford student. Mason begins his mesmerizing tale by having his protagonist, a 70-year-old violinist, James, state dispassionately that he has just murdered Sarah, his wife of 45 years. Determined to finally tell the truth about his charade of a life, James sequesters himself in the smallest room of what readers later learn is a castle and embarks on a long, involved recitation, set 50 years in the past. He describes his meteoric musical career and infatuation with a dangerously unhappy young woman named Ella. Locked in a malevolent rivalry with her cousin Sarah, Ella has stolen the young man Sarah desires and fully intends to marry him until she meets James. Rather than end her engagement neatly and cleanly, she indulges in yet more subterfuge, aided and abetted by her appallingly naive new lover, and the results are truly catastrophic. A precocious modern gothic storyteller, Mason follows the lead of Josephine Hart and Patrick McGrath. --Donna Seaman


Publisher's Weekly Review

The startling opening sentence (My wife of more than 45 years shot herself yesterday afternoon) and the compelling voice of narrator James Farrell draw the reader into the emotional vortex of this accomplished debut novel by a 20-year-old British writer. We learn immediately that his long marriage to Sarah Harcourt was not an affair of the heart for James. His love for Sarahs insecure, fragile cousin, Emma, is the substance of the flashback narrative, which deftly evokes the obsessive passion of first love, meanwhile alluding heavily to sin and guilt. When James meets Ella Harcourt he is about to graduate from Oxford, and to begin serious study of the violin. English-born but raised in America, Ella is heiress to the family seat, Seton Castle, which Sarah patently covets. Moreover, Ella has stolen the man Sarah loves, an eminently acceptable member of the English upper class, and is about to announce their engagement. Recognizing that they are meant for each other, Ella and James conspire to break the engagement, meanwhile meeting secretly and enjoying supreme happiness. They separate for a time when James goes to Prague with his generous and devoted friend Eric de Vaurigard, but Ellas needy nature requires proof of Jamess love, and his actions lead to betrayal and death. Mason is remarkably assured for a young writer, but he has not aimed his sights very high. This is essentially a romantic novel in the Du Maurier tradition, reproducing the portentous, elegiac tone and slowly revealed secrets of this seductive genre. Though Mason supplies clever plot twists, the suspense element is clothed in psychological trendiness: the source of Jamess dilemma is the plot device of too much fiction of late. And though Jamess ruminations on the emotional repression of the British privileged classes alert the reader to his crucial lack of maturity, his incessantly repeated claims of navet and innocence wear thin. Yet there is a large audience for a suspenseful, romantic story like this one, especially when it is told in literate and polished prose. Moreover, the photogenic Mason (and his Oxford accent) should make quite a hit on the talk shows. Major ad/promo; rights sold in Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, France, Holland, Israel, Finland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Norway and Japan; Literary Guild alternate; Time Warner audio; author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Love between a musician and a beautiful aristocrat leads to murder. A hot debut from a 20-year-old student at Oxford. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

My wife of more than forty-five years shot herself yesterday afternoon. At least that is what the police assume, and I am playing the part of grieving widower with enthusiasm and success, Life with Sarah has schooled me in self-deception, which I find -- as she did -- to be an excellent training in the deceiving of others. Of course, I know she did nothing of the kind. My wife was far too sane, far too rooted in the present to think of harming herself. In my opinion she never gave a thought to what she had done. She was incapable of guilt. It was I who killed her. And my reasons were not those you might expect. We were not unhappily married, you see; far from it. Sarah was -- until yesterday -- an excellent and loving wife, for she was conscientious, in some respects, to her core. It's funny that, isn't it? How completely contrasting standards can coexists in a person without seeming to trouble them. My wife was, at least outwardly, never anything but dutiful, correct, serene. 'She gave of herself tirelessly in the true service of this island and its people"; that's what the chaplain will say of her when the time comes; and he will be right. Sarah had many virtues, chief amongst which was an unflinching sense of duty made graceful by serene execution. That is what she will be remembered for. And her serenity was not only for herself: she had a way of making the lives of those around her serene also -- serene, ordered, and secure. It was security on her terms, of course; but I would have welcomed it on anybody's terms when I married her, and that has held true over forty-five years. If you knew me, you wouldn't think me at all the murdering type. Indeed I don't consider myself a violent man, and I don't suppose that my having killed Sarah will change that. I have learned my faults over seventy years on this earth, and violence -- physical, at least -- is not among them. I killed my wife because justice demanded it; and by killing her I have at last seen a sort of justice reopen. My obsession with sin and punishment, laid to rest so imperfectly so long ago, is returning. I find myself wondering what right I had to judge Sarah, and how much more harshly I will be judged for having judged her too; judged her and punished her in a way I have never been judged or punished myself. It might not have come this; I might never have known. But Sarah's inexorable sense of wifely duty exposed her. If only she'd been slightly less considerate, slightly less conscientious, she might not be dead now. She was organizing a surprise birthday party for my seventieth birthday, you see; not that the arrangements for it could have remained secret for long on this island. Nor did they. I've known that something was afoot for a month or more. And I was touched. But I'm particular about parties. I don't like the tenants invited; and I don't like some of Sarah's more fawningly agreeable friends. So it was understandable that I should want to consult a guest list so that by hinting at least I could have made my wishes known. I chose last Monday to search her desk because my wife was out, supervising the extension to the ticket office. And quite by chance I found the drawer she has kept it in all these years. Even now, with her dead and nearly buried, the arrogance of it chills me. Excerpted from The Drowning People by Richard Mason All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

My wife of more than forty-five years shot herself yesterday afternoon. At least that is what the police assume, and I am playing the part of grieving widower with enthusiasm and success, Life with Sarah has schooled me in self-deception, which I find -- as she did -- to be an excellent training in the deceiving of others. Of course, I know she did nothing of the kind. My wife was far too sane, far too rooted in the present to think of harming herself. In my opinion she never gave a thought to what she had done. She was incapable of guilt. It was I who killed her. And my reasons were not those you might expect. We were not unhappily married, you see; far from it. Sarah was -- until yesterday -- an excellent and loving wife, for she was conscientious, in some respects, to her core. It's funny that, isn't it? How completely contrasting standards can coexists in a person without seeming to trouble them. My wife was, at least outwardly, never anything but dutiful, correct, serene. 'She gave of herself tirelessly in the true service of this island and its people"; that's what the chaplain will say of her when the time comes; and he will be right. Sarah had many virtues, chief amongst which was an unflinching sense of duty made graceful by serene execution. That is what she will be remembered for. And her serenity was not only for herself: she had a way of making the lives of those around her serene also -- serene, ordered, and secure. It was security on her terms, of course; but I would have welcomed it on anybody's terms when I married her, and that has held true over forty-five years. If you knew me, you wouldn't think me at all the murdering type. Indeed I don't consider myself a violent man, and I don't suppose that my having killed Sarah will change that. I have learned my faults over seventy years on this earth, and violence -- physical, at least -- is not among them. I killed my wife because justice demanded it; and by killing her I have at last seen a sort of justice reopen. My obsession with sin and punishment, laid to rest so imperfectly so long ago, is returning. I find myself wondering what right I had to judge Sarah, and how much more harshly I will be judged for having judged her too; judged her and punished her in a way I have never been judged or punished myself. It might not have come this; I might never have known. But Sarah's inexorable sense of wifely duty exposed her. If only she'd been slightly less considerate, slightly less conscientious, she might not be dead now. She was organizing a surprise birthday party for my seventieth birthday, you see; not that the arrangements for it could have remained secret for long on this island. Nor did they. I've known that something was afoot for a month or more. And I was touched. But I'm particular about parties. I don't like the tenants invited; and I don't like some of Sarah's more fawningly agreeable friends. So it was understandable that I should want to consult a guest list so that by hinting at least I could have made my wishes known. I chose last Monday to search her desk because my wife was out, supervising the extension to the ticket office. And quite by chance I found the drawer she has kept it in all these years. Even now, with her dead and nearly buried, the arrogance of it chills me.

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