fiction, Historical fiction, reviews

Book Review: The Great Lover

The Great Lover
Jill Dawson
326 pages
Source: Publisher

Rupert. . . It is the first time I’ve said his name. I know without looking up that the word has drawn him like a hook and that he is staring straight at me. I can tell from the way the bees huddle in the corner of their frames like gathering moss, deep and brown and heaving, that some power from him is transmitting itself to me, to the very air around us. Even the sweetest creature on this earth can be dangerous, Father used to say, if you make it buzz too hard. Father, Father – you were never here to teach me. What do I do now?

Ninety-year old Nell Golightly receives a letter from the daughter of  famous but long-dead poet, Rupert Brooke. In the letter, the woman asks for personal information about Brooke, a man she never had a chance to know. As a young adult, Nell worked at a tea garden that Brooke frequent and though of different social classes, came to know Brooke personally. Nell’s letter and the memories it brings forward are just half of Jill Dawson’s The Great Lover, the fictional account of the life of British poet Rupert Brooke.

The book is also told from Rupert’s perspective. Rupert Brooke is  a young poet who loses both his father and brother in a short period of time. Doubtful of his talent, unfocused, forever wandering from place to place,  in several relationships at the same time, Rupert is a complex person. But for all his complexity, it wasn’t enough to interest me in his story.

Surprisingly I found myself more interested in the story of Nell. Nell Golightly is the oldest of five siblings. Orphaned after the loss of her father, the nineteen year old girl accepts a job at a tea garden as a way to take care of her much younger siblings. There she meets Rupert, a young charming poet who swims naked in a nearby river and takes up lovers both male and female. Nell is the exact opposite of Rupert. Practical, caring, and patient, she sees Rupert for who he really is underneath the sarcasm and flamboyance. They have a small affair and though many readers probably hope for the two to be together, I wanted Nell to find someone more dependable than a man who loves for love’s sake.

One of the things I love about The Great Lover is all the historical facts that the author gives reader. Readers learn details about the suffragist movement in the early 1900s, how women were treated in prison if arrested for protesting for women’s rights, the Poor Law reform, and what happens to those who cannot work for whatever reasons. I found myself wanting to know more about the time period and the working class people that Nell interacted with everyday.

Overall The Great Lover was entertaining and absorbing read that I’m glad I read.

13 thoughts on “Book Review: The Great Lover”

  1. I love historical novels, and have been reading some fairly good things about this one. Glad to have your opinion on it and now I know I’d like to read it too! Thanks for the awesome review!

  2. I also enjoyed this book, and thought that Nell was a very clever foil for Rupert’s struggles. Practical and surefooted, she highlighted all the angst and uncertainty of the young poet.

  3. I love books like this. I could kick myself though as I saw this one in the charity shop, picked it up and put it back down again.

  4. I’m looking forward to this one. Not sure when tho! I’m just starting American Gods and need to wrap up thoughts and maybe re-read Franny and Zooey. How are you doing? 🙂 (by which I mean that don’t let school get you too bogged with resentment! hugs and time-expansion high productivity thoughts being ‘thunk’ in your honor!)

  5. Oh this sounds really interesting to me sine I’m into suffragists. It has a nice cover as well, which is always a plus.

  6. This one does sound very interesting. Books about relationships such as these pull me in – I esp wonder what it is that made a woman like Nell go for a man like Rupert. Good review!

  7. The inclusion of all the period details reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s ALIAS GRACE, which I loved for all the same reasons. I can’t wait to start reading this one for myself.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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