The Widow

Francis King

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21 November 2013
0 pages

When her husband, an Indian Civil Servant, dies on his way to take up a new and important post, Christine Cornwell is left with a son and daughter, and a small pension on which to support them. She is a woman of unusual toughness and resilience, and she adapts herself quickly to the difficulties of her new life as a widow in England in the mid 1930s; to the war; and, finally, to the mutilation of her son, a bomber pilot. But her resources begin to fail her when, after the war, she feels herself cast aside and isolated. One of the new poor and no longer young, she is wanted less and less by the world in general and her children in particular. With this new and dramatic challenge it is harder to come to terms than with all those that have gone before it; but as Francis King presents her, with a wonderful mixtures of shrewdness and compassion, Christine still has depths of character which, in the end, lead her to a solution.

First published in 1957 and set off by a host of minor characters drawn with Francis King’s remarkable certainty of touch, the reviewer in The Times thought The Widow ‘more accomplished than anything he had written’, confirming the author’s own view that it was his finest novel.

‘Nobody is better than Francis King at handling loving but uncertain relationships, and at illuminating the spaces between people.’ Alan Massie