Author: Amanda Craig, 2003.
Genre: Contemporary. Comedy/drama.
Other Details: Hardback. 346 pages.
Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell:
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound,
And maidens call it, Love-in-idleness. (Act 2, Scene 1 A Midsummer Night's Dream)
This delightful novel is a playful re-working of Shakespeare's play. It features the Nobles, an affluent Anglo-American couple, who hire a Tuscan villa for a holiday with their children and a small party of London-based friends. Character names echo their Shakespearean counterparts: so Theo and Polly Noble stand in for Theseus and Hippolyta; while Polly's girlfriends, Hemani and Ellen, play out the confusion and squabbles of Hermia and Helena over the affections of the two blokes on the holiday There is a fairy potion though I don't want to spoil anyone's fun of discovering how this comes about or indeed how fairies are introduced into the story.
After In a Dark Wood it wasn't a surprise that Craig had the skill to subtly weave in aspects of this famous tale of fairy mischief while keeping her characters rooted in a 'real world' setting. She effortlessly captures the natural beauty and magic of the Italian countryside as well as how a holiday away from the day-to-day pressures of modern life affects people in various ways. Craig also acknowledges her debt to E. M. Forster's A Room with a View. Both literary influences are among my all-time favourites and as I already enjoy her style it was no real surprise that I adored this novel from start to finish.
Even though her novels stand alone, Craig does re-use various characters. So here, I was already familiar with Polly, Theo and their children from her most recent novel, Hearts and Minds, and Ivo Sponge was a key character in A Vicious Circle. It does rather surprise me that Amanda Craig is not as widely known as some contemporary British writers and I do hope that my enthusiasm for her writing will inspire a few to discover her for themselves.
'Love in Idleness' page on Amanda Craig's website - includes link to the story behind the novel.