Ann Widdecombe's The Clematis Tree opens deceptively with a party in a sunny Surrey garden. It is a happy day, with relations and friends celebrating the christening of Mark and Claire's new daughter, Pippa.
Jeremy, their young son, spots a pet rabbit racing across the large garden and rushes through the main gate and out into the lane. A speeding sports car knocks him down and although Jeremy survives, he is now severely brain-damaged.
Widdecombe shows how a middle-class couple and their family are forced to cope with a catastrophe they never imagined could happen to them. Although also drawing on her parliamentary knowledge, The Clematis Tree is about people - at work, on holiday, living day by day - and how they, in their different ways, react when death threatens.
What is Claire's guilty secret, she who is so outwardly efficient in dealing with Jeremy in his utterly dependent state? Mark ponders escape, but has he the nerve? Does the attention lavished on Jeremy foster Pippa's resentment? Can Claire's wealthy, self-made father provide a solution? And what effect does Claire's younger sister, Sally, an MP, have when she launches a Private Member's Bill that would legalise euthanasia?
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Ann Widdecombe is best known as a former Member of Parliament and for her broadcasting and journalism, but she long had ambitions to write novels. She is the author of four novels, and likes to write her novels on long train journeys and in Singapore, when visiting her Chinese nanny.From AudioFile:
The title refers to a foundering vine that finds its strength by climbing onto the skeletal remains of a once cherished tree, thereby offering the beauty of the past and present to all who view it. The novel itself tells of a family traumatized by an accident that has rendered their 4-year-old son brain-damaged and paralyzed. Carole Boyd removes her own self from the startling events that assault the characters. Her choice to report the action without editorializing makes her performance one of excellence. Because of the subject matter--death, maiming, and euthanasia--the shocks that arrive in the novel are better handled if one is not at the wheel of a car. An excellent production with highly dramatic content. J.P. © AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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