It is the summer of 1955. Alexander, Tom and his sister Lennie, discover the body of their childhood friend Danny Masters in the river that runs through Starome, a village on the Richmond estate in North Yorkshire. His death is a mystery. Did he jump, or was it just an accident? Lady Venetia Richmond has no time to dwell on the death. Newly widowed, she is busy trying to keep the estate together, while struggling with death duties and crippling taxation.
Alexander, her son and sole heir to Richmond Hall, is of little help. Just when she most needs him, he grows elusive, his behaviour becoming increasingly erratic. Lennie Fairweather, ‘child of nature’ and daughter of the late Sir Angus’s private secretary, has other things on her mind too. In love with Alexander, she longs to escape life with her over-protective father and domineering brother. Alexander is unpredictable though, hard to pin down. Can she be sure of his true feelings towards her? In the weeks that follow the tragic drowning, the river begins to give up its secrets. As the truth about Danny’s death emerges, other stories come to the surface that threaten to destroy everyone’s plans for the future and, ultimately, their very way of life.
The River Within will surely take its place as a classic in a tradition of English fiction that takes in Thomas Hardy, Graham Swift and Helen Dunmore.
From The River Within
Danny Masters came home one afternoon at the beginning of August. Something stirred beneath the surface of the water, at a point where the river at last quietened and then opened out into a wide pool, bottle-green beneath the canopy of the trees. His movement was slow at first, so that a passer-by might look twice, thinking it the shadow of a bird or a swaying branch above. A billowing next, deep, growing, blurred at the edges, and then up he bobbed as jauntily as a buoy, his one remaining eye widened at the shock of release.
Praise for The River Within
“Hamlet comes to fifties Yorkshire in this compelling riff on love, grief and family strife. Powell is a talent to watch.”—Lisa Appignanesi, author of Everyday Madness
“Utterly stunning, with prose that reads like a painting. It brims with heartbreaking moments of pain and betrayal and quiet joy. It recalls the best of Graham Swift and Thomas Hardy. Each sentence is so pristine and finely tuned that it took my breath away, and like its very own river, I felt helpless in its grip, pulled along to a heartbreaking conclusion. This book is unforgettable; it is a masterpiece.”—Elizabeth Macneal, author of The Circus of Wonders
“Beautifully attentive to both its Yorkshire setting and its Hamlet ur-text, and written in prose as alive and evocative as Millais' painting of Ophelia, singing as the river and reeds claim her.”—Preti Taneja, author of We That Are Young
"A gripping mystery, revealing dark truths around class and love in the aftermath of war, with beautiful prose depicting Yorkshire and life on a country estate."―The Yorkshire Post
“Powell shows hard-nosed empathy in portraying individuals’ private demons in the context of social realities. Her novel about love, class, and secrecy in 1950s England reads as if it were written in the era the characters inhabit, her style and tone reminiscent of an earlier generation of reticent yet emotionally brutal writers like Shirley Hazzard and Graham Greene. A mesmerizing escape.”—Kirkus (STARRED REVIEW)
Karen Powell was born in Rochester, Kent. She left school at 16 but returned to education as a mature student to study English Literature at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. She lives in North Yorkshire. An early draft of The River Within was awarded a Northern Writers’ TLC ‘New Fiction Reads’ prize, which seeks to support work-in-progress by new, emerging and established writers across the North of England.