reviewed by Alice Woode
Now in her ninth decade, Barbara Yates Rothwell demonstrates an energy that is frankly extraordinary. At an age when many of her contemporaries are either dead or building tiny houses of sea shells, Yates Rothwell forges ahead. A mother of six, she founded and ran a school for a decade in the 1980s, she worked as music critic for The West Australian newspaper for ten years – and prior to settling in Australia, was Women’s Page editor for a large group of weekly papers in the UK.
In Death at the Festival, Rothwell is in familiar territory (that is, in a purely musical context). It focuses on the murder of two celebrated concert pianists who have turned up to take part in the festival. It’s a book that ought to be read by any and every musician who has played at one or other – or many – music festivals – and that goes for festival organisers as well. The reader is kept guessing until almost the very end.
It’s a thumping read.
If Death at the Festival focuses on professional musicians, Death in Titipu is peopled by those amateur musicians – both singers and instrumentalists – who for decades past have been the lifeblood of the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire as members of one or other of the many G&S societies in English-speaking environments around the globe.
It’s a fascinating whodunit. Titipu’s interpreter who is also the local school principal is done to death and as the police delve into the often murky backgrounds of some of the other players, unpleasant facts emerge, not least about Miss Teresa Glencosset, the principal of St Chedwyn’s school for girls; she is most definitely not nice.
It’s a real page turner. Don’t begin reading it at bedtime. The chances are that you’ll be so intrigued by the murky goings-on among the G&S crowd that you’ll carry on reading into the wee hours and stumble about groggily from tiredness the following day – as happened to me.
Through a Brick Wall Darkly is the antithesis of the whodunit. It’s a beautifully written story about adoption and the emotional minefield that has so often to be traversed by those involved in the process. It should be read by anyone contemplating adoption. Yates Rothwell offers a movingly sensitive, bittersweet tale about the effects the process can have on so many people. Depression, elation, regret, confusion, despair are so often the essence of the process. It’s a touching, at times desperately sad, story that ought to be read by anyone contemplating involvement in an adoption. Throughout, Yates Rothwell never puts a foot wrong in this beautifully considered book.