“What do you say to a man whose life you destroyed?”
Eliza believes that she destroyed the life of Ian, her godfather. Rose, her best friend and Ian’s daughter, drowned at a party when the two were schoolgirls. Eliza feels responsible.
Twenty-five years later Eliza has become an expert in the restoration of porcelain, working for the V & A and undertaking private commissions. But she hasn’t managed to put her life back together, after the death of Rose, after a painful separation from her husband.
Ian calls her. He is an old man, a dying man, and he wants to make amends for his harsh treatment of Eliza after his daughter’s death. He shows great generosity and Eliza is torn, between the feelings of guilt and unworthiness that have come to the surface and the wish to make amends to the man she believes she wronged.
The story moves between past and present.
It tells of life at boarding school, of the friendship of three privileged girls, of another girl who wanted to be their friend but couldn’t break into their circle, and, finally, of the events leading up to Rose’s death.
And it tells of Eliza’s life in London, her visits to her godfather, her relationship with her ex-husband, her efforts to support her troubled stepsister.
Marika Cobbold writes of all this quite beautifully, balancing serious themes with warmth, compassion and occasional, perfectly judged, flashes of humour.
I was captivated. By complex, utterly believable characters in intriguing situations. I believed, and I wanted to know what happened.
Drowning Rose worked as a human story and as a study of the damage that feelings of guilt and regret can do.
It was wonderfully readable, and held me right to the end.