Dalton Foster, newly returned to the community, takes up residence in Mrs Porter’s guest house, a Home away from Home for Homeless Gentlemen. Not only gentlemen - also among the lodger is Miss Emily Vales, who still has not given up hope that Mr Right could be right around the corner. A short walk away is a house where Dalton once lived as a child, during one of his father the trade consul’s overseas postings. As he drifts through his new life he also drifts through his memories of his parents and his Aunt Dalton and their lives together.
There’s a lesson here about judging books by covers. I picked it up at a charity book sale because it’s just gorgeous - the picture really doesn’t do it justice, and my own scan was worse. Hardcover, shades of blue, silver print, a lovely quote from Rilke on the back ... I couldn’t resist. Nor, as it turned out, could I read it. It’s never a good sign when you find yourself reading twenty pages at a time, then putting it down for days during which you only think about it to think, I should read some more of that. Which is what happened here - that, and the discovery of a potential cure for insomnia.
It wasn’t a bad book, and except when Mrs Porter was rambling without full stops I didn’t actively dislike it - I was simply bored by it. Fragments of life at Mrs Porter’s were jumbled up with fragments of memories and Dalton’s efforts to resist the temptation to follow children, and it all seemed totally pointless. (And because I’m midway through Bleak House, I kept wanting to read Vales as Vholes.) None of the characters interested me, not even the puzzle of whether Dalton harboured any criminal intentions toward the children he watched. If he actually was a paedophile he was sick and creepy, if he was just misunderstood he was sad and creepy; either way I didn’t care to read about him. For a while I got some entertainment value by speculating as to where and when it was set (a matter so vague that after nearly 80 pages contemporary Perth is still only a best guess) but I finally decided that there are too many good books out there to waste any more time on this one.
Read: 78 of 240 pages.