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Graham, Eliza - 'The History Room'
Paperback: 304 pages (May 2012) Publisher: Pan ISBN: 0330509276

Meredith Cordingly is married to a British soldier who is blown up by a bomb in Afghanistan resulting in serious injuries and as his convalescence will be lengthy and as he is still traumatised by his experiences he begs his wife to leave him. Meredith decides to resign from her current teaching job and return to the public boarding school, Letchford, where her father is headmaster as she feels particularly lonely and feels that he should feel closer to her as he is still grieving the loss of his wife, Meredith's mother. Meredith settles into the day to day bustle of life in a busy boarding school but is haunted by memories of how her marriage was and also by the trauma of the loss of her mother and recollections of her childhood. She hasn't been at Letchford before, except in a home setting - her parents made her and her older sister, Clara, go to other schools to avoid potential bullying at their school. Meredith's father came to the UK from the Czech Republic and although he has immersed himself into the British way of life extremely adeptly, there is still a foreignness about him.

The police are called to the school when an apparently stabbed baby is discovered in a cupboard of the 'History Room'. The aftermath of this shocking incident which is not what it might seem is the focus of much heart searching and discussion amongst the staff, the pupils and their parents for some considerable time. Meredith is herself very shocked by the incident and makes it her business to try to establish who the perpetrator of this cruel and unpleasant act was. In so doing she discovers that there is more than one person at the school with secrets in their background which they are trying to conceal. More serious crimes surface before the eventual denouement.

This book is written in a very beautifully descriptive way more in the manner of literary fiction than the thriller that it is. It undertakes to illustrate in a very erudite way the tragedy of early and unexpected death and the grief it causes to loved ones and how they channel that emotion in many diverse ways before final acceptance and moving on. It also deals with, in a very profound way the difficulty in maintaining relationships in the aftermath of war. This is the author's fourth novel and I was very moved by it and will look out for her future work. Recommended.

Terry Halligan, England
May 2012

More crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 13/05/2012 15:30