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.
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.