Oh I do enjoy Jane Gardam and have read several, not quite all, of her books – God on the Rocks, The Queen of the Tamborine, Old Filth, The Man in the Wooden Hat, and Last Friends. plus The People of Privilege Hill, a short story collection (links to my onsite reviews). Those books are all wonderful, so I was quite pleased when the Bookgroup List selected Faith Fox for their schedule.
by Jane Gardham
1996 / 384 pages
read by Piers Gibbon
rating: 8 / 20th century lit – English comedy
The narrative opens in Surrey England, just southwest of London, with the death of Holly Fox, the mother of a newborn baby, who died giving birth. Everyone is totally aghast and at a loss because everyone loved Holly. The time setting is the early 1990s.
The quesion is – who will care for Faith?
There are very few options – Andrew, the baby’s father is so busy training to be a hospital doctor so he can’t do it and he can’t find a suitable nanny (he tries). There’s Thomasina, Holly’s widowed mother, but she is too grief stricken to even look at the baby. Andrew’s parents are old and sickly and live in the northeastern part of England so they obviously can’t do it. But Jack, Andrew’s brother is a priest of sorts, and lives near his parents but he has an assortment of people living at The Priors, his compound. There is Jack’s devoted older housekeeper, his “wife” and her 11-year old son plus, last but not least, a group of Tibetans. That said, he rather wants Faith for his own reasons. And there’s Pammie, the childless, snobbish can-do friend of Thomasina and Holly who steps in and/or gets called in, but has her own problems.
The plot goes from one little confusion to another and kind of drags a bit in the middle but the ending makes it all worth it.
The characters are finely individualized and wonderfully well developed creatures. The plot is a bit far fetched but amusing in an English comedy sort of way. The writing is great – perfect for this kind of book.