Drowning Rose, Marika Cobbold
Bloomsbury, 352 pages
Eliza Cummings has chosen an unusual career path. With refined sensibilities and artistic talents, Eliza works as a ceramics restorer for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, returning broken masterpieces to their full splendour. Eliza gives herself completely to her work, but holds herself at arms length from the rest of her life. She lives in a dank, cramped apartment, has strained relationships with difficult relatives, and finds herself divorced from a kind-hearted and intelligent man.
Twenty-five years ago, when Eliza and her friends were sixteen and dreaming of the future, this is far from what they had envisioned. In a quiet dorm at the prestigious Lakeland School for Girls, they decided that Eliza was to write and illustrate fairy tales, own a beautiful apartment and travel to Italy once a year, Portia was either to be an ambassador or to live in a crumbling house in the country with horses, dogs and children, and Rose was to be an Oscar-winning actress with a husband and family. Sandra, a grudgingly tolerated new arrival from a working-class background, kept her real dreams to herself. When Rose set her sights on Portia’s confident and attractive brother, Eliza was only too happy to help, setting in motion a series of events that ended in tragedy.
Eliza has held herself responsible for Rose’s untimely death for twenty-five years, repairing damaged porcelain but allowing guilt to ruin the fabric of her own life. One day, she receives a telephone call from Rose’s father that challenges her assumptions about the past and its implications on the present, and begins to learn how to live again. Drowning Rose is a sharply insightful tale of social class, misperception, and the misfortune of wasted lives, resonant in theme and tone with the writing of Gail Godwin and Elinor Lipman.