I found this an exquisite book - in all senses of the word.
Glossing over the cover of the current edition of Elizabeth Jenkins' The Tortoise and the Hare, which despite its charms does not reflect or represent the contents, the novel is elegant, precise, beautifully paced and stiletto-sharp. The story is simple enough: the poised and beautiful - but uncertain - Imogen is married to barrister Evelyn Gresham; he is some years her senior, highly successful, influential, used to getting his way. While Evelyn is capable and commanding, Imogen is content to be his weaker subordinate and her whole raison d'être is as his wife and mother to their young but emotionally distant son, Gavin, though she permanently fears their joint and several displeasure.
Imogen gives little thought to their neighbour Blanche Silcox, closer in age to Evelyn, stoutish, awkward, but wealthy, determined and a force to be reckoned with. When Evelyn appears to be developing a closeness to Blanche, Imogen is ready to explain it away on the grounds of shared interests and practicalities, but there is more to it than that and as the unlikely relationship develops, so Imogen's spirit becomes oppressed, buried under the weight of her husband's personality and this new, sustaining, liaison from which he appears to derive so much.
Watching Evelyn's subtle cruelty drive events is almost painful, and then when Imogen seems to find some sort of haven in the love of her doctor friend Paul ... Of the lesser characters there is the perceptive Cecil, and the boy Tim, friend of Gavin's but happy to spend most of his time out of his own chaotic home, but with or without the leavening, reading this is - as an early line has it - as "a voluptuous pressure on a bruise."
What did you think?
(Later: here, at last, is this book's 'books and cakes' post.