Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore

Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore was published in 1993 and it’s the first book that the author had published. It won the McKitterick prize which is apparently for debut novels by authors over the age of 40. The setting is mainly Spring 1917, in Zennor, a coastal village in Cornwall, close to where D.H. Lawrence has settled with his German wife Frieda.

Clare Coyne is a talented young artist who has always been very close to her cousin John William. But he is preparing to join the army, much to her grief.

The village is full of rumours about D.H. Lawrence and Frieda. Obviously the fact that she is a German is more than a little annoying to people, especially as so many families have suffered the loss of loved ones in the war. Clare befriends them and asks to draw them. Clare’s father isn’t happy about that at all, people say that Frieda is signalling to U-boats from the cliffs, but he’s a vicar and has secrets of his own.

The first part of this novel didn’t quite work for me, it became more interesting when the Lawrences made more of an appearance. Dunmore, based that part on what is known of the movements of the couple who eventually were forced by the authorities to move away from the coast.

This was an enjoyable read but not as good as the other books that I’ve read by Helen Dunmore, which is to be expected I suppose.