Lead Review

  • Book: An Unsuitable Marriage
  • Location: Bath, Somerset
  • Author: Colette Dartford

Review Author: tripfiction



“Marriage is a very secret place”

Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 20.21.19This novel is very much in the Aga-Saga genre, and will definitely appeal to those readers who are drawn to Joanna Trollope, Santa Montefiore, and Hilary Boyd.

At the heart of the novel is long suffering Olivia Parry. Husband Geoffrey’s factory ‘Downings’ has gone into receivership and as a result they have lost their beautiful home Manor Farm, and the life they had.

Friends – many of them ex employees – are giving them a rough ride too. Olivia has had to take a job at St Bedes, a Boarding School for both girls and boys (Geoffrey himself an ex-alumnus), taking care of the pupils in a variety of capacities. The Parry’s son Edward is a boarder there too. Olivia and Geoffrey are de facto living apart, although Geoffrey is living at the Rectory with his foreboding Mother. He is a destitute and pretty broken man, with an undermining and cutting mother who is still mourning the death of her husband. Olivia, although very patient, is at her wit’s end and is relieved to return to her humble little flat at the school.

“When money goes out the window, love goes out the door”. The Parry marriage is definitely on borrowed time.

This is a multi-layered novel and well observed. At the heart is the Parry’s failing relationship, inflamed by Geoffrey’s at times feckless behaviour. But there are also bigger life issues that slide in and out – death, abuse, harm, illicit couplings… the book even opens with a near-suicide. It takes quite something for an author to handle so many without overhwhelming the reader, but the author creates a very plausible storyline. She is good at creating situations and giving her characters plausible motives for acting in certain ways.

She is also deft at setting the story against a rather mildewed, mid range boarding school where the children suffer and the adults around them play out their issues, and pollute the dynamics between the individuals. On one level I found it to be a rather depressing read given the range of human behaviour she describes, but on another it is quite a riveting read.

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