Wendy Waters has managed to achieve something not often found in the contemporary novel. Her marvellously entertaining book, Fields of Grace, is at once literary yet as plot-driven as a spy thriller. Some writers are quite utilitarian in their use of language, they write well, often very well, but they render in charcoal. Ms Waters does not. She is Monet with a pen, and though her colours shine, they never detract from the drawing beneath, a well-structured and gripping yarn. Gripping, not only because of the emotional investment we can’t help but make in her lovingly realised characters, but also because of the care she takes with their backstories and their various fascinating, quirky, frequently amusing, sometimes sad and, at one point, truly terrifying journeys. From the opening pages I found myself intrigued by Grace Fielders, a woman with a past as exotic, mysterious and hidden as her old trunk, locked away, unopened for so many years. This trunk serves purposes historical, romantic and magical, a capsule to another time and place, the girl who still dances within the dying flesh of this determined yet gentle, ancient lady. A former actress from mystical, rural Devon, Grace relates to her granddaughter, Sam, the untold, erstwhile secret story of her early life, the world she knew before her life became mundane. We find her in the company of an eclectic group of stoically happy, yet emotionally unfulfilled, denizens of 1930s London, boarding at Wyncote House in Gloucester Mews. It is a cozy, very English place, but Grace will not be there for long. Talented and determined she soon finds herself launched into the dazzling world of the theatre. It is here that we meet the famous personalities. Woven seamlessly into the narrative, they tumble out in affectionate and sometime hilarious detail. We find John Gielgud nibbling on cake crumbs from his plate while he sips his tea and gossips resolutely. We are party to the shenanigans of Peggy Ashcroft, the saltiness of Harry Andrews and so much more, all these characters speaking in a voice ringing with authenticity. This is a world now gone but delicious to encounter, even if we might only take a tiny peek. Ms. Waters evokes, with a keen eye, the hazardous world of the theatre in a way that might find the reader giggling, if not contorted in a belly laugh, especially if the reader has ever dared to tread the boards. However, I have barely scratched the surface; there is so much more to this woman’s life. Suffice to say, from the curtain calls of the West End to the back alleys of Nazi Berlin to enigmatic ‘amberglow’, Fields of Grace is a thought provoking, intriguing, sometimes rollicking, sometimes distressing, world-class yet, still largely, hidden treasure. Take her key and unlock Grace’s hidden dusty trunk; you won’t be disappointed.
Published by josephfsciuto
Joseph Sciuto was born and raised in New York City, where he spent his early years listening to his Italian-American grandmother’s vivid stories about how their family was responsible for building much of the impressive Manhattan skyline, including the Empire State Building. The rich flavor of her stories about their family’s heritage still works its way through his writing. Sciuto holds degrees from both John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Stony Brook University and a certificate in film studies from New York University. After studying psychology, film, theater, literature, and English as an undergraduate, he relocated to Southern California to attend graduate school at Loyola Marymount University, where he studied writing and film. Sciuto's next novel, SOFIA, is available on June 27, 2019, following the success of HOLLYWOOD RIPTIDE, TARGETED DEMOGRAPHICS and PER VERSE VENGEANCE. View all posts by josephfsciuto