Title: Thicker Than Water
Author: Madeleine Polland (1918-2005)
Publication: Pyramid Books, paperback, 1966 (originally published in 1965)
Setting: IrelandDescription: When Veronica learns her grandmother, from whom she has been estranged since adolescence, is dying and has asked for her, she leaves London and heads to her deceased father’s childhood Irish home, Hollymount, on the border of Galway and Mayo. Nearing 40, married to a surgeon, with two sons away at school, she is transported back to the last magical summer she spent in the Irish countryside with her handsome cousin Dinny and she wonders again why her parents ended the annual summer visits and all contact her father’s family. On the ferry, she encounters Dinny, grown up but just as handsome as she remembers, like her traveling to say goodbye to his grandmother but also, she realizes, going because he is the heir to Hollymount. And when Veronica arrives at the faded but beloved estate, her grandmother is fading fast and she begins to think something is very wrong – but who will help her?
My Impression: Madeleine Polland, always a gifted writer at describing a historical scene, turned to a contemporary setting in this muted novel of suspense. Veronica never knew why her mother refused to ever return to her mother-in-law’s home but it deprived Veronica of her favorite place in the world. When she is summoned back to say goodbye to her grandmother, her husband urges her to go as he is leaving for a business trip in America. Once Veronica reaches Hollymount, her present and happy family life recedes and, although she is no longer 14, her memories and the pleasure at being reunited with the cousin she once idolized during long Irish summers become all-consuming. There have been changes to Hollymount years since she visited: the house needs upkeep although housekeeper Aggie and husband have managed to keep the grounds in good shape. And, slowly, through her bemusement, Veronica regains her observation skills and is disquieted by what she sees, although is not sure anyone will believe her . . .my first Bookshelf Traveling post last year. Sabrina is my all-time favorite book set in Ireland but for Reading Ireland Month 2021, hosted by Cathy at 746Books, I thought it would be good to pick something by this author which I hadn’t read. Yet I was surprised Thicker Than Water seemed so familiar (I knew at once why Veronica’s mother refused to return to Ireland and another plot element was obvious, either because I am a good guesser or it reminded me of Silence in Court by Patricia Wentworth); perhaps I read it so long ago I simply have no recollection. Polland captures the nostalgia for an Irish estate’s better days and this reader is reminded that such a house requires many servants! Source: Personal copy. This is also my third book in the Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge hosted by Carol's Notebook.