|About the Book|
Harriet Haslam suffers from insomnia and disappointment in her childrens lives. Matthew engages in unprofitable medical research rather than taking a doctors practice- Jermyn wants to be a poet rather than pursuing scholarship, Griselda plans to marry the pompus and recently divorced Reverend Bellamy and Gregory prefers the company of local old maids and widows to that of his peers. Only her ruling hand holds in check her feckless and spendthrift husband Godfrey.A few days after Matthew has confronted her with her controlling dominance at the breakfast table, Harriet attempts suicide, only to find after announcing her imminent death to her family that she has taken a placebo- this is followed by a nervous breakdown and her being taken away to an asylum. In her absence, the family seems at first inclined to follow her wishes for their lives but quickly revert to their old ways, with Godfrey spending considerable sums from their savings to further his childrens ambitions and wishes. Matthew has become engaged to the promiscuous Camilla, the reverends ex-wife. Harriet returns cured after six months, but is appalled to find how her children and husband have behaved in her absence.She apparently commits suicide by swallowing a poison pill along with her sleeping pills, but this is revealed as an act of murder by Matthew, in an attempt to keep his mother from scuttling his forthcoming marriage. The family covers this up, seemingly convincing themselves that Harriets death was indeed suicide and Matthew has falsely confessed out of a sense of guilt. In the end Harriets children and husband follow the lives she would have had them leave: a control she couldnt exercise in life is accomplished by her death.Orestes.