The title of this book is so apt, for rarely have I read a more introspective novel. That isn’t a criticism, mind you. The story is written with an omniscient narrator who seems to see into the minds of every character and illuminates their thoughts for the reader in a gentle, lovely manner.
The story takes place mostly during WWII, at a large English country estate whose owners, Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, have decided to take in children being evacuated from London for safety. The Ashtons are unable to have children of their own, a situation that has caused great difficulties in their marriage. Anna Sands is just eight years old when her mother sends her the countryside. In the three years she spends at Ashton Hall, Anna and Thomas form a strong bond of friendship, and Anna unwittingly becomes privy to information about some very adult situations.
The book is rife with complex and secretive relationships. None of these characters is good at communicating with one another. They live largely in their heads, their thoughts spinning them into all sorts of unhappy webs. Yet you can’t help getting caught up in their story, and hoping some one of them will find the happiness they seem to seek so desperately – even if only in their very thoughts.
The Very Thought of You was nominated for an Orange Prize in 2010, and was released in paperback just this week. It’s obviously very well researched in terms of its historical detail. This is Rosie Allison’s first novel, and shows great promise. I’ll be looking for more of her work in the future.