The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall
Published in 2012 by Portobello Books
My copy: Second-hand copy
By the time the summer holidays begin, Spencer Little is keen to put the events of the past term at Cambridge behind him and a remote village in the Lake District seems to offer the perfect escape. But it’s not so easy to remain anonymous in a small community and, after striking up a friendship with ten year old Alice, Spencer also finds himself being drawn into other people’s lives. As the summer heatwave intensifies and a web of complicity tightens around him, Spencer realizes that he will eventually be forced to choose between loyalty and truth, between logic and passion.
I loved The Repercussions by the same author, and I bought this book a while back. I chose it deliberately for one of my book groups so I could get round to reading it!
The book starts slowly, and I must admit at the start I did wonder where the book was going and if anything would happen. We follow Spencer Little as he arrives on an isolated farm in the Lake District. There he finds a slightly dysfunctional family – the grumpy and aggressive farmer Hartley, his quiet brother Thomas, bedraggled wife Mary and enthusiastic daughter Alice. Despite the fact he’s a “posh southerner”, he is given a place to live on the farm when he offers to work there for free.
As the story develops, we find out more about the characters, and this is where the story got interesting for me. All the characters we are introduced to are fascinating – we find out more about Spencer’s mysterious past, but we also get an insight into Hartley’s cruel nature. I also found myself fascinated by Mary, who wanted so much more from life but has found herself utterly stuck as a farmer’s wife.
This isn’t an action-packed novel but I found myself totally sucked in by both the characters and the landscape – although I must admit at times I could have done with less about sheep and more about people! The ending is shocking and there are many sad points throughout the novel.
Overall I enjoyed this book very much – it is quite different to other books I’ve read and gives an interesting portrait of life within an isolated community – and how this can be affected by the arrival of an outsider.