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Uncle Paul: Welcome to the Nightmare Summer Holiday

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Several months ago, I read The Hours Before Dawn, one of the most electrifying thrillers that I can ever remember reading.

Something that Fremlin does so brilliantly here is to exploit the individual fears of each of the three sisters, showing how their imagination can easily run amok.In the 50s there was the fairly rigid separation by gender: men in the work-place and women at home. It was compact, compelling and it captured an aspect of the human experience - maternal sleep deprivation. In 1983 civil proceedings were brought against her as one of the five members of the EXIT Executive committee which had published “A Guide to Self Deliverance” , but the court refused to declare the booklet unlawful. In this one, Meg, who is the youngest but most sensible of three sisters is summoned to a seaside resort by Isobel, who is worried about their older sister Mildred. All the organisation, the packing, the high expectations and then the panic that after all that effort, nobody seems to be having fun.

Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Perhaps this is unsurprising - I identified strongly with the first novel's sleep-deprived protagonist and never felt the same sense of kinship with any of the characters here. So, with the hapless Isabel struggling to calm Mildred down, Meg feels pressured into making the trip to the coast to sort everything out. It’s like water running down a drain pipe - it couldn’t go any other way, But the Ugly Sisters - Ah, that’s the challenge! The descriptions as indeed all the asides the characters made were fascinating, like a painting made of words.Surely, he’d be looking to start a new life elsewhere, keen to put the past behind him following his release from jail? An interesting first publication date, a time of flux with stuff from WW2 still hanging over people.

Even with a bit of eye-rolling, this was a quick read and comes in toward the bottom of the 3-star group.Years ago, Mildred was on honeymoon at the same resort with her husband, the eponymous Uncle Paul, when she discovered that he had attempted to murder his first wife. Mildred is staying in a nearby clifftop cottage where she honeymooned years ago with her first husband Paul and is not enjoying the eerie atmosphere and lack of creature comforts. Three funny and vastly different sisters who sometimes irritated me but also humoured me in equal measures. When she steps into that caravan, I knew exactly where I was – the caravan holidays of my childhood, with the rickety tables, lack of amenities and cold, windswept beaches that people feel obliged to try to enjoy (the scene where those in a local hotel try to talk themselves into the fact that it is about to rain; settling happily down for a warm afternoon of reading and knitting, before one hardy soul decides such laziness is not allowed and humiliates them all into going out, made me laugh aloud).

There is an odd referral to - The Sleeping Beauty, in Fremlin's novel which happens to be a sort of peep-show on the pier - a sleeping snake! Its not really the Agatha Christie cosy crime story that its sold as - even the tagline on the cover 'Welcome to the Nightmare Summer Holiday' rings false - marketing spin rather than accurate. Rich in psychological insight and dark humor, the elegant, razor-sharp quality of Fremlin's writing provides page-turning excitement.Their capable younger sister Meg is summoned from London by telegram to resolve all their problems and manage things, but is there more to the situation than meets the eye? The title to be read and discussed is sign-posted and on sale for the whole of the previous month (with a discount for those who make it known they intend to come) and everybody is welcome, whether first-timer, part-timer or regular-timer. I did so enjoy Fremlin's debut, The Hours Before Dawn so I'm not ready to give up on her, but neither am I anxious to read another soon. Windows users should also consider upgrading to Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft Edge, or switching to Firefox or Chrome.

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