Saturday, 15 December 2018

The Wardrobe Mistress - Patrick McGrath

It's not often that I buy a newly published book, as my shelves are still full of books yet to be read; friends pass on books they think I might like and I spot books in charity shops that "look interesting".  But on a recent visit to a book shop looking for presents for others, I found two new books that looked interesting enough to buy, and this was one - it's a good one.

Joan Grice is the Wardrobe Mistress.  Her husband of nearly 30 years, a Shakespearean actor of some reputation, has died and she is bereft.  She is the permanent Wardrobe Mistress at a small theatre, and must return to work. At home she she has the same job, for Charlie Grice was a snappy dresser, and there is a wardrobe full of his clothes  for her to cry at, to inhale his left-behind smell of, and to generally grieve about the man who is never coming back.  The year is 1947, that long-gone cold winter, and the understudy who takes over Charlie's part as Malvolio in Twelfth Night is poor, shabby and ill-dressed for the cold weather.  But..... he is Charlie Grice - how did he pick up every movement, the posture, the wobble in the voice? At first, Joan believes that Charlie is attempting to "come through" from the other side, and is drawn to the actor.  But of course, as Charlie is definitely dead, perhaps some of those lovely clothes can be passed on.  And then, one day, she finds a small item in a coat that will turn her world on it's head.

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