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When Marion's mother is silenced, first by a stroke, and then by death, she is left confronting the chaotic detritus of a life obsessively devoted to art. she has left it too late to ask the crucial questions about scenes confusedly remembered from her childhood, and above all about the identity of her own father, 'lost in the war'. Out of the hundreds of paintings in her mother's studio, one, a portrait of a young man, is inscribed 'For Marion'. Is this her father? And who was he? Marion's search takes her to the Cornish town of St Ives. In the remote and closeknit town where communities of fisherfolk and artists have coexisted for many years, she learns of a tragedy which is intrinsically tied up with her father's life. Over fifty years before, the St Ives lifeboat went down with all hands bar one. Marion must delve deep into the past to discover the identity of a man she never knew,a nd in so doing confront the demons which have tortured her own adult life. The Serpentine Cave is an imagined story containing a true one - a powerful novel about memory and loss, birth and rebirth, and past regrets which still have the power to plague the present.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780552997201
ISBN-10: 055299720X
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 13mm)
Pages: 224
Imprint: Black Swan
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publish Date: 1-Jan-1998
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


US Kirkus Review » From the gifted and versatile Walsh (Knowledge of Angels, 1994, etc.): the comfortably appealing story of a grown woman who, when her secretive mother dies at 84, at last goes back to her childhood to find the identity that had been kept from her. Marion Easton, now in middle age, has never known who her father was - but she does have a distant, half-complete, childhood memory of a seaside cave, of something dreadful happening in it, and of being saved in the nick of time by an unknown man when an incoming tide cut her off from shore. Where was this cave? What really happened? Could the saving-man have been her father? And just how, one might ask, could Marion have reached middle age without - well, asking. But learning what the painter Stella Harnaker was really like as a mother - and person - helps answer that question. Eccentric, peremptory, demanding, autocratic - and completely, absolutely, utterly devoted to her painting - Stella was a mother who kept the past very tightly corked. Not even her grandchildren, now Marion's two grown children, know who their grandfather was - until, after Gran's death, an unsigned obituary reveals that Stella was once "a prominent figure" among the painters in Cornwall known as the "St. Ives Society of Artists." So off to picturesque St. Ives goes Marion, with daughter Alice (a violist with love problems) and son Toby (a broker with suggestions-of-insider-trading troubles), where there will be slow and wonderful unravelings of the past: the house itself that Marion lived in as a child, the half-remembered cave where the tide came in - and, even more important, someone who was there when whatever awful thing it was that happened happened. Be assured it will be well worth finding out, in personal, historic, and human terms all. Pleasant sleuthing, likable people, fine Cornish seascapes, lots of St. Ivesian charm, and plenty of sensible, expert, outright interesting talk about art. Top Walsh, all around. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Jill Paton Walsh

Jill Paton Walsh was educated at St Michael's Convent, North Finchley, and at St Anne's College, Oxford. She is the author of several highly praised adult novels: Lapsing, A School For Lovers, Knowledge of Angels, which was shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize, Goldengrove Unleaving, The Serpentine Cave and A Desert in Bohemia. She has also won many awards for her children's literature, including the Whitbread Prize, the Universe Prize and the Smarties Award. She has three children and lives in Cambridge.

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