England’s Lane might be named after a place, but it’s a novel about people, and the relationships between them. Emma Woolf’s debut novel is a warm and heartfelt read about three people and the connections between them.
Harry isn’t a likeable character – he’s cheating on his wife – but his depression and subsequent suicide reveal deeper issues than simply misogyny. We’re dubious about Lily, the younger woman having an affair with a married man, but she’s warm, and tender, and loves with all her being. And there’s seemingly strong Pippa, the shunned wife trying to bring up her two sons, fighting despair and humiliation as her marriage falls apart. There are sad moments, and happy ones, complex times and simple pleasures – the range of human experience.
The themes of love, loss, and betrayal are timeless, but this story is very much rooted in modern London, and touches on issues of gentrification, work/life balance and city relationships. The streets of Hampstead are accurately drawn. It’s no Mrs Dalloway (yes, Emma Woolf does have a famous aunt), but it is detailed.
England’s Lane is a great example of good quality writing that will appeal to the commercial market. The boundaries between literary and commercial fiction are blurring, and this novel bridges the two. It’s an easy read, not because it’s simple or dumbed down, but because it’s good.
Published by Three Hares Publishing.