The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
Set in 1924, The Crimson Rooms is the story of Evelyn, a pioneering young woman determined to make a career for herself as a lawyer at a time when the legal profession is an overwhelmingly male preserve. (In fact the first women solicitors began work in 1922, as Katahrine Macmahon helpfully informs us in a timeline at the end of the book.)
Evelyn lives with her timid and self-obsessed mother and her Aunt Prudence, a formidable character of fixed opinions, in a household that has been cast into deep shadow by the death of her adored younger brother, James, in the First World War. However the rigidity of their domestic arrangements are thrown into disarray by the appearance of Meredith, a woman who claims to have been James' lover and Edmund, her young son.
Meanwhile Evelyn has found herself drawn into a murder enquiry as she attempts to defend an ex-soldier accused of shooting his young wife. To the police his guilt is unquestionable but Evelyn is unconvinced.
Like, Confinement and The Rose Of Sebastopol The Crimson Rooms explores female roles, the nature of love and the quest for personal fulfillment. I found it an enthralling and deeply-moving read. Most of all I was impressed by the author's handling of psychological detail. The scenes between Evelyn and the young male barrister with whom she falls in love and in whom she is ultimately disappointed are beautifully observed.