‘Ophelia in Pieces’ is the first book by Clare Jacob, a local resident and until recently chairman of The Camberwell Society. She was brought up in New York and London. She read English at Oxford and became a barrister because she loved John Donne. After years of defending clients accused variously of terrorism, hiding cocaine in coconuts, and stealing underpants she decided to capture the lunacy and mystery of it all in a novel. She is married with three children.

The premise of the book is about Ophelia, who, as a barrister, is consumed by her job.  Clearly her husband Patrick, has been neglected and their relationship has been put on the back burner for far too long and he has had enough, and sought affection elsewhere.  Now it is just Ophelia and her son, who, she feels she needs to get closer to and therefore takes a sabbatical from work.  Not being great company during the summer, Ophelia is lucky that, kids being kids forgive and forget easily and her son seems hardly affected by her mood.  Due to her break from work, she is concerned about money; however, she is far from struggling, it’s not as if the bailiffs are 'coming-a-knocking' or that she would even have to give up her Au-pair.  If that is broke - most  of the country would be able to declare bankruptcy!

Sadly on returning to work, Ophelia seems to go back to her old ways by trying to win back the trust of her associates which helps her justify becoming all encompassed with work once again.  Occasionally a fleeting thought is given to her estranged husband, though the matter is not explained and the story is not developed as one would expect.  Ophelia also has moments of remorse about the way she is rarely around for her son and consoles herself with a glass or two of wine when she gets home of a night, (she is hardly drinking herself into oblivion) and should perhaps have opted for red wine instead and made the old excuse of 'a healthy heart'.

The court cases on which Ophelia works are well scripted, highlighting how the judicial system seems to place the representing barrister at a disadvantage by allowing very little time to prepare before stepping into court.  As the cases step up in detail, there tends to be a feeling of deeper knowledge of the defendants and their problems than of the main characters in the book, which is a shame as Ophelia and her relationships could have been expanded a lot further to give a better sense of connection with the reader.

The book jacket review is a little misleading and the reader expects high drama and trauma, making out Ophelia to be a drunk who is broke and drawn into a love entanglement and life threatening chaos.  One thing that springs to mind is if Ophelia is really 'in pieces' (as she seems to cope pretty well)  then the rest of us must be hopeless wrecks!

However, the book in reality is easy going, with interesting court cases.  "Ophelia in Pieces" is closer to real life than most fiction books, which tend to be a bit far fetched.  It is a simple glimpse into one woman's life, which holds your attention and keeps the pages turning.

Sally Glass

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