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Elizabeth Ironside

Autor(a) de Death in the Garden

5 Works 793 Membros 30 Críticas 1 Favorited

About the Author

Image credit: (c)2006 ML Frank / GraphicsCount.com

Obras por Elizabeth Ironside

Death in the Garden (1995) 396 exemplares
The Accomplice (1996) 151 exemplares
A Very Private Enterprise (1984) 120 exemplares
A Good Death (2000) 89 exemplares
The Art of Deception (1998) 37 exemplares


Conhecimento Comum

Nome legal
Manning, Catherine (Lady Catherine Manning)
Local de nascimento
Northamptonshire, England, UK
Locais de residência
Washington, D.C., USA
University of Oxford (PhD|History)
diplomatic hostess
Manning, Sir David (husband)

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Elizabeth Ironside is the pen name of Lady Catherine Manning. Her husband, a senior British diplomat, was Ambassador to the U.S. from 2003-2007.




After reading Elizabeth Ironside's The Accomplice, I was so impressed that I bought her other four books. This book is also written in a format that I particularly enjoy when it is done well, with multiple narrators whose testimony must be pieced together, so that in the end the reader knows more than any of the characters. This story is so dark that I was at first tempted to read it later, and then utterly enthralled.

The main character here is Théophile de Cazalle, a career army officer. After the German occupied France, he deserted the so-called Free France of Marshal Petain and escapes to England to work with the French government in exile. He faked his death, to protect his family. Now he returns for a brief visit to his family's last property, the farm Bonnemort, to find some of the people he left behind dead, some sent to Germany as forced labor, some as resistance workers, and his wife, with her head shaved, the mark of a collaborator. When he returns again, his wife has fled to Paris with the granddaughter of a friend of her father's. He begins to meet with her, to consider the repair of their marriage, and to attempt to learn what has happened in the years that he was gone. Was his wife a collaborator, and a lover the the German major who requisitioned the house, and was found lying naked and dead in front of it? Or was she a Resistance heroine?

Theo finds contradictory witnesses, whose testimony is dictated by their personal feelings and political beliefs. He finally has a very long talk with a Russian exile, Nikola, living in the area, Nikola, who helps him piece all the testimony together.

I am torn as to whether the conversation with Nikola is a strength or weakness of the book. Nikola likes to talk at length and in great detail, and as a reader, I shared the frustration of Theo. listening to a long-winded man whose testimony he needs, and therefore cannot hurry.

The story is told at a very interesting point in the war - the liminal time when the Germans are gone from the immediate area, but the war is not over, the people who have endured do not yet know all of their losses, and have not recovered from their privations. A time when those who united in resistance now, although not in strategy, now fracture to undercut each other for control of the hopefully glimpsed future.

I smiled a bit at the reviewer who could not believe that Theo is so obsessed with finding out whether his wife was a collaborator and perhaps lover of a German officer. They must be much younger than I. Their marriage, so unsuitable to both their families, was one of passion, which would make infidelity much more personal and cutting. The question is not only sexual jealously, but a need to know what kind of a woman she truly is. Has she has been undercutting the cause that he has dedicated himself to, and also a concern about the future consequences for him, especially should he decide to go into politics, of her conduct.

His daughter, Sabine raises a very difficult question. She has indeed suffered, but does suffering justify bad conduct? We may have some compassion, but what, exactly, do we do with it. I had a friend who argued that no-one commits a murder unless they have been wronged, not necessarily by their victim, and therefore they are not guilty, and deserve our compassion, not punishment. Be that as it may, I distressed her by saying, they cannot be allowed to continue killing people, or inflicting lesser sufferings upon them. Do we have free will? Two people may suffer the same misfortunes, and one may come out of it feeling empathy for other people, and the other may resent anyone who is more fortunate in their eyes, or turn their anger and resentment outwards on other people. What makes the difference?

I also think that it raises the question of attention to our children. Sabine was definitely abused at the convent school she attended. The nuns, when they were not vicious, were negligent. Should we take the attitude that it doesn't matter what one child does to another, it's "a learning experience" for the victim? As with Sabine, we may find that we don't care for what they have learned. I would argue that contrary to what is often thought, just because a child is old enough to left alone with regard to their physical safety, they don't require supervision for their moral and social development, and they often aren't physically and sexually safe, either.

Another question is "power over," the sometimes mysterious ability of one person to dominate another. This subplot is used three time, which I think is one time too many. In the first case, in the convent boarding school, the girl who has made herself dominate has many accomplices to help her wield her power. This probably leads to the second incident, where the victim dominates another girl. The third time, which comes at the end of the main story, not the epilogue, is one too many for me. It doesn't particular fit what we know about the character, not does it serve any purpose that I can see, unless it is to make her look bad. I hated that. That's a half-star off.

The second problem with the ending is that an adolescent girl has been given a severe beating - she even has a broken arm. Her friend decides to avenge her, but the method makes no sense at all. She baits the trap by telling the beater that the girl wants to see him. But surely he knows that she was badly hurt. He doesn't wonder why she would want to see him, or how she is in any condition to make a trek up to a cave? Is he expecting a declaration of undying love or a sexual encounter? It doesn't occur to him that when he gets to the cave, he will find her father with his sidearm? She hasn't told her family what happened yet, she's in pretty bad shape, but the beater doesn't know that? That's the other half-star. It's not so bad that it ruins the story, but once I had a chance to think about, it seemed pretty idiotic. Sometimes, when something is otherwise excellent, I'm able to mentally edit out bad scenes.

Aside from those two caveats, I found the story fascinating and thought provoking, and I love Elizabeth Ironside's writing.
… (mais)
PuddinTame | 5 outras críticas | Oct 17, 2021 |
This isn't a mystery in the conventional sense -- an overall mystery, with multiple suspects, that is tied up at the end. There are two distinct mysteries, neither of which is completely solved at the end, although there is the possibility that one will be, with the upending of things that seem settled. At the end, the reader knows the truth of it, one of the characters suspects it, but we are left to wonder if truth will out. A touch frustrating, but no one of those plots that trails off vaguely. In some ways, this is really more of a literary novel than a mystery, examining interactions, motives, and effects of the past on the present; it is cataloged as fiction rather than a mystery at the library where I borrowed it (before buying my own signed copy.) Either way, I thought it was excellent.

Everything revolves around a Russian/Latvian/ German émigrée, Jean, who seems to have settled in a a perfect, placid, middle-class English matron, now aging, fond of her stepchildren, to whom she expects to leave all she has. She has moved out of her marital home, Asshe House, into an easier to live in bungalow. The first monkey-wrench thrown into this serene setup is that of a Russian student, Xenia, who shares the surname of Jean's mother, and on that basis writes for assistance in coming for a visit to England -- a visit that she hopes will become permanent. Naomi, Jean's always helpful step-daughter-in-law, decides to help Xenia when Jean isn't interested, with completely unlooked for consequences. Next, renovations that Naomi is making to Asshe House reveal the body of a child -- long dead, or buried recently enough to upset the Jean's life?

Jean begins recording the biography of her tumultuous life, an account of her aristocratic family's attempt to cope with revolution and war, before she found sanctuary in England. Paralleling this, her neighbor and lawyer, Zita Daunsey, the other protagonist, the daughter of a Russian émigrée and an English father, struggles with her relationship with her mother, her son who has cerebral palsy, and the ex-husband who abandoned his wife and son. Both as lawyer and friend, she becomes involved events around Jean.

I enjoyed this thoroughly. It's an interweaving of subplots and motives that kept me enthralled until the end, which the reader understands better than the characters -- but how will all end?
… (mais)
PuddinTame | 6 outras críticas | Sep 18, 2021 |
Well written but I did not really like it. The people were sometimes peculiar, involved in often unpleasant situations and some behaving in a very nasty fashion. I like puzzles but don't like ugly behavior. I wished I hadn't bought it.
TanyaRead | 14 outras críticas | Mar 8, 2021 |
Theo Cazalle returns to his home in the French countryside in 1944, after serving with the Free French a few years before. Very little is the same, however. The Germans had occupied the area and had lived in his family home while his wife and child and visiting child moved to a nearby building. His wife, Ariane, was beautiful and had attracted the attention of the German leading the occupation. When Theo returned some were saying she was a collaborator. Was she?

In this book the war times and the after-war times are intertwined so that we gradually figure out what went on during those years. As important as Adriane are her two charges, Sabine and Suzie. Sabine is her daughter while Suzie is the daughter of friends from another part of France, who are very ill.

Sabine and Suzie grow into their early teens together and are seen as close. However, Sabine controls their relationship, ordering Suzie around and managing all of their activities.

Meanwhile, the family caretaker, Henri, has joined the resistance. He is cautious and circumspect so that of course not everyone knows. His wife is not happy with the situation as it threatens their lives.

Adriane is drawn into the web of conspiracies among the Germans, the Free French, and the Resistance. Is she part of any of them? Does she have feelings for the German officer? Theo doggedly seeks out the answer.

An interesting perspective of the French after and during WWII. Always it is useful to learn a little more about this period, as experienced by those in other countries.

I was a bit put off by Sabine's personality as presented here. I did not want to buy it. I believe that people often attribute base motives to others without finding out what the real motives are, and it seemed odd to me that Sabine would spring from good parents and caretakers to become so cruel. Cruelty had been inflicted on her but not by everyone. I would have appreciated a more nuanced character.

Altogether a good story with much to think about. And a bit of a mystery to be sure.
… (mais)
1 vote
slojudy | 5 outras críticas | Sep 8, 2020 |


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