BITTER ORANGE by Claire Fuller, 2018, 317 pages
Frances Jellico, a maladjusted youngish middle-aged lady that has recently lost her mother, finds herself doing research at a crumbling English countryside manor. Despite her dubious work history (recently spent ten years caring for her dying mother, writing for an obscure historical periodical a couple of times) an American investor hires her to record the history of the bridges on his estate, Lynton. Upon arrival, she realizes she is not alone in the decrepit mansion. A couple is ensconced on the floor below hers, the man has come on hire to classify the art and architecture, the woman, well, she is a companion and a pot-stirrer, a muse and mental patient, beguiling and unscrupulous.
Although the book flashes back from Frances current dire and irreparable state, the author quickly weaves in stories of what appears at first to be a halcyon summer in 1969, the summer of stories, love, intrigue, and the mansion. The deeper psychological elements are revealed in simple sentences that may have you re-reading what you just read, they are so complex. So lies the paradox of this book: the simple is complex, the more complex, very simple.
This book is imminently readable. The authors prose pulls you in from the very first paragraph. In Frances, the simple woman with a one-year Oxford education, Ms. Fuller explores the depths of self-deprecation within the context of a vastly hollow and shallow life. Still waters though, they do run so deep.