Erringby by Gill Darling – Review
By Helen Johnston
Normally I have to like at least one of the main characters in a novel for it to hold my attention, but Gill Darling has managed the mean feat of producing a page-turner without me sympathising with any of the key players.
We’ve got the cool and callous Marianne, who inherits the titular Erringby Hall – a sprawling and rundown pile in Herefordshire – from her eccentric uncles in the early ‘70s. Then there’s the errant Col who sees the potential of the house as a way of making money for them as a film location.
And then Col’s nephew, Christopher, whose story we follow most closely and who appears to become the worst of the three. He is secretly in love with Marianne and one day wakes up in her bed, suspecting something happened between them the night before.
As the story unfolds all three characters are revealed to be pretty selfish people and the adopted Christopher is particularly cruel in his treatment of his adoptive parents Janet and Bob. They are steady and conventional, the complete opposites of the bohemian Marianne and wayward Col, and Christopher is utterly contemptuous of them for it.
He changes his name when he moves away, from Christopher Antrobus to Kit Dashwood, his new surname a nod to Jane Austen. Living the high life with a famous girlfriend, he thinks he has it all, but his attachment to cocaine starts to cause problems.
We follow the fortunes of Marianne, Col and Kit from the ‘70s right up to 2001. I became gripped by wanting to know how things would turn out for them and if Kit would find the answer he was looking for from Marianne.
Darling weaves a tightly written tale of human desires and frailties, drawing me in despite the awfulness of much of the protagonists’ behaviour. Although I didn’t much like them, I was fascinated by them and wanted to know their fate.
This is Darling’s first novel, a writing debut which will surely set her on her way to becoming a favourite author as her career progresses. Well worth a read.
‘Erringby’ by Gill Darling is published by Fairlight Books, £8.99 paperback