Tuesday 15 June 2021

Bitter Orange

Finished June 9
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Most of the action of this novel takes place at a country house in 1969, but the narrator is looking back on this time as she is dying some years later. Her name is Frances, and she is a woman out of sync with her times. She has lived with her mother until her mother died recently and has taken on work to catalogue the outbuildings and external elements of a country house for the American that recently purchased it. She is a large woman with no experience with men, other than her father who left the family for another woman when she was a child. 
She has developed an interest in architecture of the type she has been hired to describe and written articles, for free, for a small publication in the field, which is how her new employer discovered her.
When she arrives at the house where she will stay due to her tight financial situation, she finds a couple already there. The man in this twosome, Peter, is also working for the American, describing the house itself, and its contents. The woman is Cara, who seems to wild swings of emotion and who is very attached to Peter, although they are not married. Despite herself, Frances gets drawn into their strange relationship, and ends up caught in a situation that will change her life forever.
For me Frances was a victim of her upbringing, her parents' lack of good parenting, and her naivety. Cara is unwell, and prone to violent emotions and wild stories. Peter is both mercenary and weak. Frances just wants to have a friend. 
This is a sad story and I both felt for Frances and was annoyed at her acceptance of her situation. The story is very well written and I found myself caught up in it, both wanting to find out what happened and dismayed with the way things developed. 
The title related to a fruit tree found on the property, which had an abundance of ripe fruit, but it was not edible.

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