In 1904, when she was six, Polly Flint went to live with her two holy aunts at the yellow house by the marsh - so close to the sea that it seemed to toss like a ship, so isolated that she might have been marooned on an island. And there she stayed for eighty-one years, while the century raged around her, while lamplight and Victorian order became chaos and nuclear dred. Crusoe's Daughter, ambitious, moving and wholly original, is her story.
Polly Flint, the central figure in this civilized English novel, is six years old as it opens in 1904, an old woman at its end, in 1985her mind and imagination filled with the presence of her heroic exemplar, Robinson Crusoe. Installed by her seafaring father in a big yellow house in Yorkshire under the care of two pious aunts, she spends her life in and near that spot. Once she loved a young poet who died in the Great War; later there was a German-Jewish refugee who placed his daughters in Polly's care before he died. Events occur undramatically, related with equal weight no matter what their relative significance. Companionable though it is, the novel lacks urgency; even when Polly speaks directly with Crusoe, they exchange tepid, truistic remarks about the nature of memory and fiction, memoir and imagination. Then he is gone and the tale ends as quietly as it began. Gardam's award-winning books include God on the Rocks and The Pangs of Love.