On Green Dolphin Street by Sebastian Faulks

On Green Dolphin Street cover

This one was bought at the most recent library book sale and it’s the first book by Faulks which I have read despite the fact that we have plenty of others in the house which my husband has read. It was first published in 2001.

The book is set in America mainly in 1959-1960 but World War II plays a part in that the main characters are still carrying around mental wounds which were inflicted by it.

Mary van der Linden is married to Charlie a high-flying British diplomat and they have two children. They’re the sort of people who I would hate to have living in the street because they make a habit of having parties into the wee small hours. Charlie’s hard-drinking is rapidly getting out of control and he’s slipping from being a high functioning alcoholic to an out of control liability. He has been trying to make money on the stock exchange and has even borrowed money to invest but he keeps losing money on his shares and they’re in a financially precarious position.

Mary’s life begins to fall apart when the children are sent off to school in England to take advantage of the subsidised private education available to the children of diplomats. The house is empty and Mary feels redundant and then she gets a phone call from her father telling her that her mother is terminally ill. Mary offers to go home and help with her mother but she isn’t wanted there and so she is left with just Charlie to look after, but he doesn’t even eat any more and she’s more of a mother than a wife to him.

Frank Renzo is a New York journalist who was a guest at one of the parties and he is smitten by Mary the minute he sets eyes on her. He’s trying to get his career back on track after being persona non grata during the McCarthy years. He’s reporting on the John Kennedy-Richard Nixon campaign. To begin with the whole thing is just a friendship with both Mary and Frank determined to be chaste but inevitably things progress and Mary finds it necessary to pretend that she is writing a book, and she needs to go to New York to do research for it. With Frank having to follow politicians around at short notice they don’t see much of each other at all. The title of her book is going to be ‘On Green Dolphin Street’. I suppose you could say that it was ‘their tune’.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book and I’ll read more by him now. It’s set in an interesting period with lots going on in it including the Cold War which I am now beginning to think of as ‘the good old days’.

Sebastian Faulks managed to make Mary van der Linden a likeable character which is really saying something coming from me because I really lack patience when it comes to married bed-hopping people in books or real life. As a friend of mine experienced in such matters once said that the romance goes out of it all the minute you start washing their socks and underwear and the bills start piling in. I almost bit my tongue off but I managed not to say what I thought which was – It was a pity she hadn’t thought before she wrecked another woman’s life and devastated three children. And that dear folks is the Presbyterian lesson for today!

Other people would say – life is short and you should grab it while you can.

Each to their own!

Back to the book, I did enjoy it, it wasn’t at all what I expected somehow. I didn’t know that On Green Dophin Street is a tune by Miles Davis. I know nothing about jazz beyond that there is ‘cool jazz’ and ‘when does the tune start jazz?’ I think this one must be cool.

There is a book called Green Dolphin Street which was written by Elizabeth Goudge in 1944.