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Caroline: a Mystery – by Cornelius Medvei

A short, whimsical and engrossing giant of a novel.

It is the story of an insurance man whose mundane life is brightened by a holiday romance with Caroline.
Caroline who has “something of a young Audrey Hepburn about her”.
Caroline who is “gamine – wide-eyed”.
Caroline who has “eyes a man could drown in”.
Caroline who is a donkey.

Mr Shaw is fast approaching retirement and lives, it seems, a mundane life.  His encounter with Caroline on his annual holiday turns his life upside down. The pair fall for each other and at the end of the summer break Mr Shaw takes Caroline home to live with his wife and son.  Caroline annoys the neighbours, fascinates the local children, beats everyone at chess and charms Mr Shaw’s colleagues.  The story, as told by Mr Shaw’s son, is cleverly  interspersed with notes and coments written by Mr Shaw.

Medvei writes with confident, lilting prose, evoking the surroundings with ease: “they followed the course of a river that thrashed its way over the rocks and tumbled into limpid brown pools, which reminded him of his companion’s eyes”.  In some ways it is a classic love story, and much of its appeal lies in the way Medvei tells an extraodinary tale in such a down-to-earth manner.

This book is a real gem, one to read while relaxing on holiday.  It is also a great pre-read for a donkey walking holiday.

Caroline: a mystery / Cornelius Medvei. -Vintage Books, 2012. -ISBN 9780099548683.

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