It is mid-20th century and thirty-something years old Mildred Simons has reached a point in her life when the unanswered questions which have been plaguing her these past few years have gradually piled up into a mountain of doubts which she fears will somehow overwhelm her. She is a pitiful product of an institutionised bigotry started three generations ago by a misguided bunch of religious zealots. The women and girls’ lives are dictated by the ‘elders’ of this strange clan. They exist in a capsule insulated from the rest of society by a strictly taught way of life over which they have no way of rebelling. Her marriage is essentially platonic and she is totally swamped by her older, domineering spouse and his co-elders. The little freedom of movement and decision-making which she has won has been from bitter struggle within the relationship. The mores and values she lives with are those of the late nineteenth as the sect has committed to live an almost Victorian way of life in a world which has been drastically altered by the past four decades of war and depression. Fate decrees that by some strange alchemy she will be brought into contact with a young man some fifteen years her junior who also lives within strict bounds, albeit with a slightly more enlightened religious family. His saving grace in the context of the story is that in the secular co-ed school he attends, he is gradually given a lot of the answers to his natural curiosity by a school colleague who, if anything, is as far from being religious as it can possibly get. In his struggle to come to terms with his upbringing and his natural desires which are being feverishly stoked by his school pal, Gary is slowly but surely breaking from the hidebound strictures which have held him until now. How the two social misfits meet and consolidate their relationship makes intriguing reading. We read how Gary, her emancipator, is himself first initiated into the times of the mid-century; we share his clumsy efforts at trying to match the dubious sophistication of his pal and his first hesitant dealings with the teenage female tormentors who, in their young maturity, are always streets ahead of the gawky boys. We also share the despair which several actions by his one-time friend bring him into the nadir in his young life Along the way we meet not only Gary’s various tutors but also the hard, almost brassy Mary, who helps direct Mildred in her rebellion. We also see in the beginning of the story how Mildred’s antecedents develop into the narrow-minded fanatics who gradually develop their unique system of domination of which she becomes a product. Many readers of a certain generation will recognise in Gary and Mildred some sort of kinship, others, younger by far, will delight in how different is their generation mostly untouched by that early half of the twentieth century. The so-called ‘freedom’ of the nineteen-sixties is yet to break on society and the story gives a clue as to the why’s and where fore’s of that period eventually had to evolve Celine Dale’s books do not pull punches. Sex is Sex, and a spade is often called “a bloody shovel.” If readers cannot face the raw reality of what happens when the human animal gets down and dirty and driven by those incredible inner forces, better stick to the sweet sounds of angelic choirs as romance blossoms between virgins and a tentative hand reaches out to touch the loved one’s finger ignoring those wild fires burning under the skin! Enjoy!
Celine Dale’s Tales always ensure that the reader’s interest will be constantly stoked at a high level of impending sexuality and in this tale of intrigue, mayhem and real people, all that Celine ever promises comes through constantly