Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Thicker Than Water by Madeleine Polland - atmospheric suspense in Ireland

Title: Thicker Than Water
Author: Madeleine Polland (1918-2005)
Publication: Pyramid Books, paperback, 1966 (originally published in 1965)
Genre: Fiction/Suspense
Setting: Ireland
Description: 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 . . .
Madeleine Polland is best known for her adult and juvenile historical fiction and I discussed my love of her books in 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.

6 comments:

Lara said...

I'm not familiar with Polland. Will look her up. Am especially interested in any historicals.

Lex @ Lexlingua said...

So, decent but definitely not a rival to Rebecca? :-) Somehow this reminded me of works by Mary Stewart, Barbara Michaels and Victoria Holt. And Jane Eyre being called to her dying aunt's side.
~ Lex

TracyK said...

I was unfamiliar with Madeleine Polland until I read your earlier Bookshelf Traveling post. This sounds like a perfect author for Reading Ireland Month. I wish my TBR shelves were not already so full. I am reading Tana French's The Secret Place for Reading Ireland right now and I hope I can get a review for it in before the end of the month.

CLM said...

This is very slight and dreamlike compared to Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt. I've never really got into Barbara Michaels.

I think I would recommend one of her historicals for Reading Ireland Month rather than this one. Sabrina is my favorite but All Their Kingdoms is also very good. Several of her other adult historicals are not set in Ireland.

She wrote a children's book about St. Patrick called Flame Over Tara which would have been a timely read but I don't seem to own it. If library book sales start up again, maybe I can find some of the ones I am missing.

Judy Krueger said...

I once stayed in an Irish estate house whose current owners had started a bed and breakfast.

Peggy Arthurs said...

I enjoy a good gothic novel every now and then and this is a new to me author! Thanks!