20 January 2011

The Whole Wide Beauty by Emily Woof

Flap Copy: "David Freeman, the charismatic and renowned director of the Broughton Poetry Foundation, has always been more interested in his work than family, and his daughter feels the wound of his neglect. David's intense passion for his work masks a complicated inner world, and his already fraught relationship with Katherine is further threatened when she falls in love with his protege, the poet Stephen Jericho. Years earlier, Katherine abandoned her career as a dancer, and she is muffled by motherhood and a conventional marriage; with the affair, she senses freedom. As she falls in love and her marriage starts to come apart, she begins to question the depth of the romance. Her emotional journey leads her back to the north of England where she was brought up, to her father, and to her younger self, the passionate dancer."

David is struggling to maintain his faltering poetry foundation, while his daughter is adrift after giving up her life as a dancer to become a wife and mother. The two have a distant and tense relationship, made worse by David's long-held secret and Katherine's new affair with David's favorite young poet, married-with-children Stephen Jericho.

The affair awakens a new passion in them both, leading Stephen to creative productivity and Katherine to a new sense of self. Meanwhile, David is diagnosed with cancer and must devote himself even more whole-heartedly to finding a wealthy benefactor for the Foundation, which pulls him even farther from his family.

Woof's writing is sparse, her emotions buried deep under the surface of her characters' stiff outer personalities. The story here was not wildly compelling, but the characters' rich inner worlds and tumultuous ups and downs did make for a moving drama of love and family. I guess the plot doesn't matter so much, if the characters can carry the tale.

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