Wednesday, October 31, 2007

This Time of Dying


This Time of Dying by Reina James is the tale of ordinary people living in extraordinary times. The story tales place in London during the Fall of 1918 - a time of war and of the Spanish Flu and is told primarily from the points of view of two people. Allen Thompson is a lady. She is a widow, a schoolteacher, a caregiver for her invalid sister and a woman who is ahead of her time. She is unusually kind to her maid and has a burgeoning friendship with a man below her station. Henry Speake is an undertaker whose first love is music and playing the piano. He sees the effects of the epidemic firsthand and reads a letter left behind by a victim which gives him insight as to how serious this flu may be.

This novel describes Allen and Henry's everyday activities. Her school closes and she visits the sick with her friend. She deals with her sister who is in a state of decline. Henry takes care of more and more of the victims, running out of lumber for coffins and time to arrange burials. Each day Allen and Henry meet and talk and get to know one another and the people around them tell them more and more how inappropriate their relationship is. I found it interesting the extent to which Henry's family and coworkers were upset with him over his relationship with Allen. They felt she was 'ruining' him which I wouldn't have expected.

Despite the dramatic subject matter, I found this to be a very quiet book. I found myself rooting for this disparate pair and hoped they would not be parted by the expectations of society. I enjoyed this book, though I never felt a very strong connection to it. That puts it in more of a 'liked it' than 'loved it' category for me and I'm glad I decided to read this.

6 comments:

Carrie K said...

Some of the old fashioned mores are so frustrating in old novels. Edith Wharton's Lily Bart made me want to shake her most of the book.

Sounds like an interesting read in tumultuous times, unlike the new Alice Sebold. I just can't like her stories. They're too off putting to me.

Jill said...

I think this is one of the titles that I recently added to my wish list on Amazon.

Karen said...

Like Jill, I had this on my wishlist, and I've just heard it's being sent to me to review!I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Tara said...

Carrie, yes, they are, but in lots of ways I enjoy them - not only to learn what life was like, but also to understand the character's behavior.

Jill and Karen, I look forward to your thoughts on this book!

Danielle said...

I've checked this out twice from the library, and both times didn't get it read in time. I do plan on reading it eventually. I may have to wait until it comes out in paper and just buy it! I have a feeling it doesn't end happily though....

Tara said...

Danielle, I have an enourmous stack out right now and I just know I'll barely touch it before they're due. I won't give anything away regarding the ending...=)