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Once upon a time Gabrielle Price wrote and published an extraordinary novel. But 20 years on her literary star has dimmed, her "work of genius" is all but forgotten, and no further novels have materialised.
She now lives an unremarkable life: middle-aged, living alone in the sleepy village she grew up in, and working as a housekeeper for the local vicar. Her lonely existence is dominated by memories of her best friend Madeleine, who died young, in tragic and mysterious circumstances.
Gabrielle’s quiet world is turned upside down when she meets and befriends Simon - young, attractive, a would-be writer, and enthusiastic fan of the astonishing novel that Gabrielle published all those years ago.
Charmed and flattered, she recklessly invites him into her home and her heart. But Simon is mysterious and manipulative, and it’s not long before he forces Gabrielle to confront the demons in her past.
Gabrielle’s obsession begins to destroy her carefully cultivated life, and she comes to feel increasingly threatened by Simon’s presence.
Who is he? Why did he seek her out? And what does he really want?
What listeners say about The Last Words of Madeleine AndersonAverage customer ratings
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- Rachel Redford
Nothing ever goes away for ever
Gabrielle wrote a brilliant widely acclaimed novel 20 years ago and has lived on the financial proceeds ever since, eking out her earnings as housekeeper to the local vicar in the village where she grew up. Why has she never written a follow-up novel, but chosen after the end of an unhappy affair with a married man to live the solitary life of a much older person? This very intriguing novels weaves between the present and the past to answer this question drip by drip.
Her novel is still remembered and one day an student admirer of her work asks to meet her. The 'student' is Simon, a very attractive, vibrant young man who charms his way into her house and remains there. We know that Gabrielle falls in love with him despite their 20 year age difference, longs for him, and although she resents his intrusions and his emerging manipulations, she is powerless to resist. Exactly who is Simon? Why does he stay? Why is he sometimes charming and sometimes hurtful and sinister?
The other thread to the story is Gabrielle's life long intense friendship with Madeleine from children until Madeleine's tragic and mysterious death. Was Gabrielle somehow in love with Madeleine? Why is Simon so interested in their relationship? Why does he press Gabrielle back into the past where she doesn't want to go?
All these questions are answered in this densely plotted story which keeps you guessing and succeeds in not descending into melodrama. It's more than just a 'good read': it raises many issues, is thoughtfully written and creates very real, credible and fully developed complex characters. You're never quite sure which way the story is developing and the ending is not an expected one.
It's extremely well read by Esther Wane - a pleasure to listen to. I'll look out for Helen Kitson's next novel!
2 people found this helpful