I feel like Virago has really been coming through for me lately. It makes me want to stick to a steady diet of green spines. When I read the synopsis for The Tortoise and the Hare I was pretty sure of which characters I was going to root for. The plot centers on Evelyn, a 52-year barrister who takes an interest in his 50-year old tweedy neighbor Blanche at the expense of his beautiful younger wife Imogen. As uncharitable as it may sound, I was all set to be happy for Evelyn and Blanche for finding an age-appropriate relationship, thinking that Imogen must no doubt be some vapid, flighty, money grubbing, shrew. Instead I found myself furious at Evelyn and Blanche and all I could think of was the Charles – Diana – Camilla tragedy.
Was Imogen/Diana the perfect mate for Evelyn/Charles? No, but it was no fault of her own and it was unfair for Evelyn to expect Imogen to be someone she wasn’t. Was she profligate with his money? No. Did she vamp around with other men? No. Did she provide the requisite son? Yes. Being older and more experienced, should Evelyn have known himself and his desires better before choosing a mate? Yes. Should Blanche/Camilla have stayed the hell away from a married man? Yes.
And the worst part is that Evelyn and Blanche never get their comeuppance. I found that part the most frustrating thing about the book. Evelyn was so awful to Imogen I thought for sure at some point there would be some coal in stocking. There is a ray of hope for Imogen in the end, but it didn’t keep me from wanting some pain for Evelyn and horsey Blanche. Even with this frustration, I really enjoyed this book and found it emotionally compelling.