"On an October night in 1931, in the elegant dining room of the Hôtel des Bergues, Edith Campbell Berry is celebrating the renewal of her contract as an officer of the League of Nations. Five years have passed since Edith's triumphant arrival in Geneva, and the idealism of those early grand days has been eroded by a sense of foreboding as the world moves ever closer to another war.
"Beneath her diplomatic poise, Edith is having misgivings about the marriage she thought would steady and satisfy her. As her certainties crumble, she is once again joined by Ambrose Westwood, her old friend and lover. Their reunion is joyful, and her old anxiety about their unconventional relationship is replaced by a feeling that all things are possible - at least in her private life. With Ambrose once more her guide, Edith is coaxed back into the dark, glamorous and oddly comforting demimonde of her past.
"The personal and professional strains of being a citizen of the world are beginning to show, however. On leave in Australia for the first time in ten years, Edith feels an unsettling alienation from her native land which raises troubling questions about herself and the world.
"The League, created in optimism after 'the war to end all wars', struggles valiantly against the inexorable advance of World War II; back in Geneva, Edith and her fellow officers must come to terms with the knowledge that their best efforts - and those of the well-meaning world - are simply useless against the forces of the day.
"Moving, wise and utterly engrossing, Dark Palace is a profound and enriching novel. This eagerly awaited companion volume to his internationally acclaimed tour de force, Grand Days, confirms Frank Moorhouse as one of our greatest writers - a master of tone and timing, an elegant and exuberant stylist, and an unerring chronicler of the human spirit."
Geneva, on the night of October 15, in the year of 1931...
Edith and her friend, Jeanne found themselves in the dining room of the Hôtel des Bergues - Geneva's best - wining and dining in a grand, exuberant, and stately manner.
Not, perhaps, so stately a manner.
More two young ladies indulging themselves.
Two young ladies laughing together like maids, actually.
Laugh thy girlish laughter;
Then, the moment after,
Weep thy girlish tears!
Too old now for girlish tears, Edith thought, but there was still some girlish laughter left, even though she was in her thirties.
There they were, two young ladies laughing like maids, in the dining room of the Hôtel des Bergues surrounded by men going about the business of war.
The League's first very serious war.
From the Knopf hardback edition, 2000.
This novel won the 2001 Miles Franklin Award.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Frank Moorhouse page.
Last modified: August 12, 2001.