Friday, August 20, 2010

Anne Belinda (book review)

In 1917, John Waveney, recently released from the hospital and headed back to the trenches in France, goes to visit the part of England his ancestors came from. He encounters a girl of 15, and when she learns he is all alone in the world, she tells him she would be sorry if anything happened to him.

Somehow John survives the war, and some years later he learns he has inherited the ancestral home. Wondering about the girl he met long ago, he learns she is a cousin but is mysteriously missing: no one will mention her name and he is warned not to discuss her. Even her own twin sister refuses to do anything but sob when Anne Belinda is discussed. John feels a strange sense of loyalty to the one person who sent him off to war with a kind word, and he becomes determined to find out what kind of trouble she is in and find a way to assist her. Of course, once he meets her he falls in love with her courage and the humor she is nearly always able to maintain, despite great trials. Not the least part of Anne’s appeal is her determination not to be rescued.

While the actual plot of this book is extremely improbable and unconvincing, I found it very moving so it was easy to ignore the flaws. John and Anne are convincingly and sympathetically drawn so that the reader looks past the unlikeliness of Anne’s fall from grace and focuses instead on the way these two lonely but steadfast people are drawn to each other. It is appealing but dark, only occasionally relieved by humor, so is not the usual drawing room mystery made popular by authors like Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Margery Allingham. Nor does it feature Wentworth's well-known sleuth, Miss Silver, so I can see why it is one of the Patricia Wentworths that was never reprinted. My copy was so old it was falling apart, and I returned it very reluctantly to the Dover Library, even calling to warn them it was too rare to circulate, although I was extremely glad to have the opportunity to read it. Highly recommended to those who like British mysteries – but you are unlikely to find a copy to read!

Anne Belinda by Patricia Wentworth was published in the U.S. by J.B. Lippincott Company in 1928.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was a young teenager when I bought a copy of this book at a used book sale. That was over 50 years ago. I loved the book, but it didn't make much sense until I learned about the history and clothing styles of the 20s. Hats play a big part of this story. The book is still a great read, I hope it will be available to modern readers soon.