The Eloquence of Desire explores obsessive love, the terror of war and the lost innocence of childhood.
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The Eloquence of Desire
Amanda unfolds a narrative set in the 1950s which is distinctly rhythmic in its delivery as she delves into the minds of George, his wife Dorothy and their twelve year old daughter, Susan. Their relationships are turned upside down when Dorothy discovers George's affair with his boss's daughter. George and Dorothy are sent to Malaysia while Susan goes to boarding school. Still ruled by Britain, Malaysia is in the throes of the Emergency. The intense tropical heat and her fear of the civil unrest turns Dorothy into a recluse. George embarks on another affair. He and his new lover befriend a Malay boy and his family who live in a kampong in the jungle. But the villagers are supporting the insurgents and it is Susan, over from England, who finds her father and lover in the kampong after an attack by Chinese Communists. It is only after this event that she discovers the truth about her parent's relationship and her psychological disturbance eventually forces her to see a psychiatrist in London. Richly descriptive and well researched; The Eloquence of Desire is a page turner where obsessive love, the terror of war and the lost innocence of childhood are explored in depth.
George looked closely at his reflection, pulled his forehead flat, stretching out the creases with his fingers. A cock crowed in the distance. He moved to the window, looked down at their garden. Apart from the lack of apple trees, it could be England. Even the lawn was kept a vibrant green, a constant with all the colours in Malaya. He resumed soaping his face, and as he shaved slowly, thoughtfully, manoeuvring his razor over his chin, his face took on different expressions. Two hollows had appeared beneath his cheekbones where there was flesh before. He wondered whether Emma would prefer this new lean look. The time and distance between them had done nothing to stop his yearning. It was her figure lying naked, head supported by her hand that continually hovered in his thoughts.
A beetle crawled onto the soap; it crouched, nibbling the block. It was huge with long mandibles that waved around as it feasted. Picking up the soap between finger and thumb, he lifted the blind with his other hand and tipped the insect out. Best to rid the bathroom of all tropical creatures before Dorothy rose to have her bath. He hoped that today she would be less nervous, that her imagination would be reduced in its activity. But she seemed to be in a constant state of fear, believing there were gangs of Communists waiting to attack her the minute she stepped out of the door. And it was difficult trying to calm her down, when she knew that is what had happened to the Palfreys. Snapping a cover on his shaving stick, he wondered how the Palfreys must have felt at discovering a servant, a trusted member of the household had betrayed them. But they were in a different position. Working for the British administration carried these dangers, as he tried to convince Dorothy. To no effect it seemed. The few times she had ventured out, her head was wrapped in a scarf, not dissimilar to a native woman. If her terror was not so alarming he would have laughed; she looked like an insurgent herself and her insistence that it was the heat of the sun she was escaping, her denial of her own trembling fear, made the entire act more farcical.
It was true, however, that the climate did not suit her. And even he had not been prepared for the power of the equatorial sun. The humidity was relentless, and as the hottest months drew nearer he felt he would implode if the temperature rose anymore. Then there were Dorothy’s headaches, another popular topic of conversation and another reason for her to turn from him. Not that he blamed her; it was not her fault. Nevertheless, he had tried to entice her, to flatter her as if he were courting her again, repeatedly telling her how lovely she looked, encouraging her to go out, to mix with the other expatriate wives, allow herself to relax, have a good time. To no avail, although she declined his advances in a fashion that bordered on politeness, as if she were refusing a second helping of ice cream, he felt like an outcast and sometimes he despaired at her enforced isolation; not to mention the physical frustration which made him almost weep for Emma’s touch. The ultimate rejection was last night when Dorothy had finally locked her bedroom door. In his dreams, he had forced the lock, thrown off the thin sheet to see Emma lying in her usual position, the other arm resting on her hip. The solitary pleasure, after he had woken damp, agitated, was unsatisfactory, a worthless resolution.