Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
More switches in time and space, now between a rapist and his victim, mostly chronological but with one bewildering flashback.
The setting is Dartmoor, the protagonist a young teacher raped at the outset of her career and haunted by the consequences for the next sixteen years. She has struggled to rebuild her life as mother, wife, potter, the simple sanctuaries of moor and studio a background to the fragile pleasures of intelligent children and a kind partner. Then the past comes back: scarcely more than fulfilment of a dread but no less shocking for that.
The horrors and humiliation of this particular type of crime are so perceptively depicted one suspects that, like Austen and Eliot, the author is writing under a man’s name. Not so. The novel is deeply psychological, indeed Vowler is dismissive of the physical; fetuses are not carried in a woman’s stomach (the gorge rises) but much may be forgiven a man who can make a woman feel pity for a character the Press would blazon “evil”. Which is how writing as a god carries an edge; hearing the perpetrator’s story from his own angle acts as some measure of balance to his victim’s account.
A devastating story, staying with the reader long after the last page, along with the speculation that a woman might well have ended it differently.