Jan 9 2014 2:15pm

Lost Senses Awakened: Judith Kinghorn’s The Memory of Lost Senses

The Memory of Lost Senses by Judith KinghornThe Memory of Lost Senses is my first Judith Kinghorn book. It won't be my last.  This book tells the overlapping stories  of two women, Cecily and Cora. Cecily Chadwick's story begins in 1911, when Cora, a mysterious countess with (possibly) at least three former husbands, moves into the neighborhood with her handsome grandson.  

It takes a while for the two intertwining plots (Cecily's and Cora's) to get going, but the language in this book is so beautiful that the wait is no hardship.

We start with Cecily, at a cricket match on a summer afternoon and about to meet Jack (the handsome grandson).

In the middle of the green the yellowing grass turned to molten silver, the players blurring into the pool of liquefied metal: like a mirage, Cecily thought. Only a few wore white flannels, the majority were in their usual working clothes, with shirtsleeves rolled back and braces exposed. And beyond them, at the other side of the field, clear and solid, and dazzlingly white, stood Bramley's new pavilion.

The scene is set for Cecily and Jack's first meeting and you can almost feel summer and sense the mirage-like effect of the heat.

And so it goes. Jack and Cecily meet and the ground is laid for, perhaps, a romance. 

Soon we get bits and pieces of Cora's convoluted history.

She opened her eyes, glanced down at her hands, her wedding band — immovable now. “I was the gypsy,” she said out loud. There was muted rhythm to the evening. The air was soft and still. But it had been a long and arduous day: too long, and much too hot. And it had been a relief to get tack to the solitude and peacefulness of her garden, the place that was now her home. Stiffly upholstered in navy, faded with age and wear, she felt heavy and weary. Not simply from that day's jouney, but from a lifetime's journeys, and the journey of a lifetime.

As Cora begins to parcel out her story, it is continually interrupted by these beautiful descriptions, by lyrical narrative that only incidentally illuminate Cora's history—or may have quite a lot to do with it; it's difficult to tell.

By the end of the book, we have the denouement of Cecily and Jack's story. Happy enough considering the time in which it occurred. And we have enough bits and pieces of Cora's to put together what hers probably was, but the whole of Cora's story remains a bit of a mystery. We are never sure what is real and what is a product of Cora's own self-definition. It doesn't matter. The journey, ultimately, is the prize in this book.


Myretta is the co-founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, and on Twitter @Myretta.

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