The Standing Pool

The Standing Pool

Book - 2008
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Random House, Inc.
An idyllic, old farmhouse in France is the background to a gripping story suffused with tension.

Two Oxford historians, Johnny and Sarah Thomson, take a sabbatical with their three small and lively girls in a remote and beautiful old farmhouse in the hills of Languedoc. But the farmhouse has its own histories, rather more fraught and alive than those the Thomsons are used to dealing with on the page.

As the illusion of Eden retreats, the Thomsons start to feel the vulnerability of being aliens in this unpredictable wildness. While Sarah frets about the danger of the swimming pool and the night-time visits of well-tusked boars, Johnny is more concerned by the locals — particularly Jean-Luc, the gardener. Is his taste for hammering tiny nails into dolls, collecting arcane rubbish, and secretly photographing Sarah, more than a harmless pastime? And how should they react to his eager befriending of their girls?

The novel, narrated from several points of view (most importantly from Jean-Luc’s), is about being among strangers, and being a stranger oneself. Writing, as always, with linguistic élan, imaginative flair, and an alert ear for dialogue, Adam Thorpe allows the comic to occasionally seep through, before returning us to the terrifying mysteries that feed at the heart of this thrilling novel.

Gardners
Two Cambridge academics, the historians Nick and Sarah Mallinson, take a sabbatical with their three small and lively girls in a remote Languedoc farmhouse. But the farmhouse has its own histories, rather more fraught than those the Mallinsons are used to dealing with on the page.

Blackwell North Amer
Two Cambridge academics, the historians Nick and Sarah Mallinson, take a sabbatical with their three small and lively girls in a remote Languedoc farmhouse. But the farmhouse has its own histories, rather more fraught than those the Mallinsons are used to dealing with on the page. Nick once wrote that 'History is more about amnesia than memory.' But what if that amnesia is a saving grace - disturbed at one's peril, like the murk of a standing pool?
As the illusion of Eden retreats, the couple feel the vulnerability of being among strangers, and being strangers themselves - even in their own place, and even to their own children. Sarah frets about the danger of the swimming pool and the nightly visits of the wild boar, while Nick is more concerned by the guns of the local hunters. Meanwhile, however, there is Jean-Luc, the gardener, living alone with his invalid mother in the village, whose private world involves hammering nails into a doll, collecting arcane rubbish, and spying on Sarah's naked dips in the pool. What should the Mallinsons make of him?
Writing with linguistic elan, an alert ear for dialogue, and huge imaginative flair, Adam Thorpe interweaves social comedy with narrative suspense, returning us to the dark and terrifying mysteries that feed at the heart of this novel.

Publisher: London : Jonathan Cape, 2008
ISBN: 9780224079419
Characteristics: 423 p. ; 23 cm

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uncommonreader
May 09, 2014

Thorpe's unflattering portraits of the British middle class are very good. The Anglo-American couple who rent the farmhouse are initially the more despicable (he steals Iraqi art), but as the story progresses, the Cambridge academics living in the farmhouse are increasing irritating and ineffectual people. The eruption of violence is not understandable in the context of the novel, and overall the book is too long with a contrived ending.

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