Laurel Nicolson is an actress now in her mid-sixties, successful and happy in her career. She's come home with her brother and sisters for her mother Dorothy's birthday--her last birthday, as Dorothy Nicolson is fading both mentally and physically.
And Laurel finds herself obsessed with a long-buried mystery, the shocking day in her teens when, sitting in a treehouse, she saw her mother--her kind, generous, loving mother--kill a strange man who approached her in front of the Greenacres farmhouse and said something alarming. The man was Henry Jenkins, a writer who had been popular in the thirties and forties, but had since faded and declined, obsessed with the death of his wife Vivien and having acquire a reputation as the "picnic stalker." It doesn't fit the mother she knows, and Laurel decides she has to know the truth.
The story alternates between Dorothy Smitham in London in the late thirties and early forties, and Laurel Nicolson in 2011, piecing together the story of her mother's life during those years, Henry Jenkins, his wife, apparently Dorothy's dear friend, Vivien Jenkins, and Jimmy Metcalfe, a young war photographer who was her mother's first love.
Morton carefully builds a complex and seemingly contradictory story of Dorothy Smitham during the early war years, interlaced with Laurel's quest to understand the truth and the meaning of her mother's past. It's an exceptionally satisfying family story.
I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.