Charlotte Mendelson’s story of homesickness and exile is a little masterpiece of characterisation and milieuCharlotte Mendelson’s characters are always in some kind of exile – literal, metaphorical and quite often both. Consequently, even the most traditional of settings, such as the Oxford quads and cloisters of her second novel, Daughters of Jerusalem, come to seem like a foreign country in which the inhabitants live in strikingly close proximity but are always just missing one another. People are constantly either furiously stifling dangerous secrets or rushing to declare them, only to be thwarted at the last minute; misunderstandings multiply and create horrible collision courses; the emotionally desperate are on the verge of being overwhelmed by those more charismatic and canny. All these disasters and near-disasters are recounted in heady prose that manages to unite the comic, the melodramatic and the straightforwardly moving.Almost English, her fourth novel, has just been longlisted for the Man Booker prize and it isn’t difficult to see why: it is a little masterpiece of characterisation and milieu. Set in 1988, it tells the story of Marina Farkas, a 16-year-old who has recently swapped Bayswater for Dorset, and Ealing Girls’ for Combe Abbey, a boarding school replete with …read more

Via: The Guardian | Books