Lady with Carnations is not only the traditional name of a famous Holbein miniature which unexpectedly comes into a London salesroom in the mid-thirties: it is also the soubriquet by which some of her close friends think of the antique-dealer who buys it. Katharine Lorimer, by hard work, flair and courage, has worked her way to the top of a trade that traditionally belongs to men. Yet, having acquired the Holbein despite fierce competition, she feels not triumph but a terrible anxiety and desolation. The antique business is going through the doldrums, and she herself is reaching the limit of her resources. Worse still, she feels appallingly alone in the world. Reserved and fastidious, she keeps a certain distance from even her dearest friends, and the person she loves most, her niece Nancy, is bound up in her own ambitions to become a famous actress.
Katharine has bought the miniature as a gigantic gamble, hoping to sell it to a wealthy American collector, and she sets off for New York with Nancy and her niece’s fiancé. What happens to them all there, and how their lives are altered, makes an engrossing tale, a delightful love story, showing at its best Dr Cronin’s gifts as a novelist. Every Cronin ‘fan’, every reader who enjoys a novel with the old-fashioned virtues of a well-worked-out plot, sympathetic characters, and humanity, will find it absorbing.
In the magnificent narrative tradition of The Citadel, The Stars Look Down and Cronin’s other classic novels, Lady With Carnations is a great book by a much-loved author.