Noel Coward was the toast of 1930’s British society with his razor sharp wit, sartorial elegance and much loved plays and songs. Goldenhurst, his house in Kent, provided a refuge where he could be himself and hide from the prying eyes of the general public and more importantly the law.
Noel, however, had a big secret which could have landed him in prison and ended his career. Namely, that his hot American manager, Jack, who was actually his lover. Hedonistic days of cocktails, sex in the afternoon and witty banter soon became ruined by the arrival of Noel’s domineering mother, father and aunt and the intrusions of Noel’s career. Jack’s attentions started to wander and troubles began in paradise.
Flash forward to the present day and actor Richard falls in love with the house too. Like Noel, Richard has problems of his own. His relationship with his long term partner is mellowing into a state of bored familiarity, his control freak manager is spiralling out of orbit and her hunky teenage son is providing an unwelcome and dangerous sexual distraction. Goldenhurst is supposed to be on respite from all his worries but this is a house with a rich and not always pleasant history. Goldenhurst proves to have a few echoes of the past which start to invade the present.
Clary has written an unexpected gem of a book. The story is at turns comical, tragic and erotic. The glimpses of life of 1920’s High Society are fascinating and contrast well with the life of an A list actor nearing the twilight of his career in the present day. You’d expect a fair bit of comedy and innuendo from the book but this isn’t heavy handed and doesn’t intrude on the well observed love stories and tales of life’s tribulations. Noel was a fascinating figure and this tantalising glimpse into his world is well worth investigating. The story is an easy read and perfect for picking up while lolling on a deckchair or sun lounger (if it ever stops raining).
Reviewed by Chris Bridges