I enjoy Adèle Geras’s novels because they’re so full of the kind of detail I like about clothes, houses, gardens etc. Cover Your Eyes has all this, as expected, but is also a kind of ghost story, with a mystery buried in the past. There are two main characters. Megan is an aspiring journalist who is dumped by her lover, also her boss. She has previously interviewed Eva Conway, a once-famous fashion designer, at her home, Salix House. When the two meet again, there seems to be a bond between them.
Salix House is at the heart of the novel. Eva and her husband Antoine bought it as a wreck and she turned the house and garden into a thing of beauty. Now Antoine is dead and the house is shared by Eva’s daughter Rowena, her husband and their two little girls. Eva had made the house over to Rowena to avoid death duties and now Rowena wants to sell it, because they can’t afford the upkeep. Eva is utterly miserable at the thought of leaving not only her creation but also her memories, both good and bad. For Eva is constantly suppressing bad memories, to the extent that she has every mirror covered up for fear of what she might see in it. Who or what is this presence which can sometimes be felt or worse, seen? It’s all linked, we know, to what happened to Eva just before the war, when she was sent to England with the Kindertransport and her sister was left behind. Curiously, when Megan visits the house again, then moves in to look after the children, she senses something strange and thinks she sees – someone? – in her looking glass. Possibly it’s because Megan also feels guilty about something in her past. So there we are; a ghost story and an exploration of the nature of guilt and forgiveness.
By the end of the book I’d changed my view of most of the characters. When Megan first appears, broken hearted, she seems a sympathetic character but isn’t she actually rather stupid, having an affair with a married man WHEN THEY NEVER LEAVE THEIR WIVES? Also something of a slag, sleeping with the first available man and then falling immediately for another. Can I really be more old fashioned than Adèle Geras who is, if she will forgive my saying so, even older than I am? Oh well, I’m not a popular novelist and obviously never will be as I am far too strikt. Rowena at first appears shrewish, bossing her mother about. When I knew more about her childhood, I felt sorry for her and started to dislike Eva. As this is fiction, every problem is resolved at the end of the book.
I read the book very quickly and although I don’t think it’s Adèle Geras’s best novel, it is an enjoyable read. It’s published by Quercus and I read it courtesy of NetGalley.