The Rising Tide is the third book I have read by Molly Keane and she continues to be an absolute delight. The Rising Tide, written in 1937, was originally published under the pseudonym of M J Farrell. At that time it was considered inappropriate for women of Molly's social status to write novels and she wanted to hide her creative literary side from her hunting friends. It was not until 1981 when she began writing again after a break of nearly thirty years that she published under her own name.
Her novels describe the lifestyles of the Anglo Irish - a lifestyle with hunting and outdoor pursuits at the very heart of it. Her characters are complex and interesting and her books are full of subtle humour. She does not write comic novels, but her characterisations and plots are full of comedy. She also explores the darker side of that lifestyle - the competitive and snobbish pre-occupation with appearances and the all encompassing obsession with horses and hounds.
In The Rising Tide we meet the French-McGraths - Lord Ambrose and Lady Charlotte live in Garonlea, a Gothic mansion with their four daughters and one son. Lady Charlotte rules the house, insisting on standards of behaviour totally at odds with the interests of the children. When Desmond falls in love with and marries the beautiful Cynthia, Lady Charlotte's reign comes under threat. Cynthia befriends Diana, the youngest daughter, and Diana comes to live with her in Rathglass, a house in the grounds of Garonlea which Cynthia has taken possession of from some elderly relatives (in her perfectly charming way).
When tragedy strikes and Desmond is killed in the war, the status quo slowly begins to unravel as Cynthia eventually takes control of Garonlea.
With such a great cast of characters it would be hard not to love this book. Molly creates such a fascinating and richly described atmosphere - the house and the family really come to life.
So, from an author I have read twice before to a brand new experience. Somehow, I have managed to never read a Georgette Heyer novel. I think this was mainly because I always thought all her novels were set in the Regency period and this never particularly appealed to me. On Saturday in the library I stumbled across a number of her novels set in the Edwardian era, and so I decided to take the plunge. I am starting with Penhallow... I'll let you know how I get on!