Reads: The Rising Tide-Molly Keane

The Rising Tide

The Rising Tide (VMC 137) is the story of a family in the early 1900s. A family of 4 daughters, a brother, father, and what seems to be a meddling mother who heads her household with a stiff chin. Their lives are touched by the brother’s new wife Cynthia who has a personality as strong as the mother and by the devastating effects of World War I.
I think as I read more literature from England (although this is set in Ireland) during this time, I’ll become more familiar with the general structure and characteristics of these books. The things that stick out in my mind are the deeply involved and flowering descriptions, the fascination with hunting and horses, and buildings/estates not really shown as personalities but as a large part of the characters lives. The large mansions are where everything happens.
The characters, especially Cynthia are well done. Cynthia was so strong of a character that the others even Diana who was particularly close to Cynthia and generally observant could not seem to see her manipulation of them and in so many ways could not see that she was just like Lady Charlotte (the mother of the household who she detested). Cynthia was able to enter their lives and quickly disrupt all that they’d previously known. This leaves Lady Charlotte steaming behind polite and extended battles. I think this comes around at the end to bite Cynthia..perhaps it is the rising tide? Maybe the tide presents itself as age that creeps up on Cynthia. What interested me was Diana who I thought seemed to be the most awake of them all but who couldn’t see that Cynthia walked on her. Diana even makes a comment about Cynthia’s behavior towards others but doesn’t connect that it is happening to her. Or maybe she does but doesn’t want to admit it because being away from her mother’s clutches is the better alternative. Their codependent relationship hurtles forward despite Diana’s feelings that Cynthia is overbearing and cruel (in the case of her children) or inappropriate (in her dealings with her suitors).

This is my first read by Molly Keane. My initial reaction to her writing was not negative but I often struggle with writers who are not always kind to their characters especially when the characters are sweet and mean well, but I keep reading with one eye covered, kind of like a child at a horror movie. So, I’ll be back for more.

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