As part of the Fiction Uncovered 2011 promotion, we worked with The Reading Agency to reach reading groups across the UK. Eight selected reading groups were given one of the Fiction Uncovered titles to read, and we’re delighted that they’ve been able to feed back their thoughts. Here, Leicester’s Rampant Readers tell us what they thought about Catherine Hall’s The Proof of Love.
‘With a shameful secret that he left back in Cambridge, Maths PhD student Spencer rides his bike over the Lakeland hills to a rural farm, looking for peace and quiet, summer employment and a chance to work on the proof that he needs for his thesis.
‘Set in the heat wave summer of 1976, Catherine Hall’s The Proof of Love tells of the burgeoning relationship between 24-year-old Spencer and Alice, the 10-year-old daughter of the Lakeland farmer who gives him a job. Spencer’s arrival triggers a series of events that culminate in love and jealousy and choices Spencer has to make to prove his love.
‘Hall handles her central theme sensitively, contrasting a young mathematician’s academic brilliance with his social and emotional naiveté. Ill-equipped to deal with minefield of adult relationships, it is no surprise that Spencer forms a comfortable friendship with ten-year-old Alice. They share the same innocent delight in learning and the sense of being outsiders in the local community. Hall’s sympathetic treatment of other main characters made it easy to empathise with them and to understand their longing to escape from the claustrophobia and sometimes brutality of Cumbrian rural life. This theme of entrapment intensifies as the tension of the story builds to its sad climax.
‘Hall’s observations of the relationship between the farmer and his wife and child are well written and capture the essence of their lonely life in this harsh environment. She brilliantly describes the scenery and manages to convey the heat and oppression of the long hot summer of 1976. The reader is drawn into the scenes, especially those up on the fells. Her descriptions of shearing time and of Spencer’s work rebuilding stone walls were wonderful; it is easy to imagine yourself there, the sun on your back, the smell of scorched earth and the feel of the warm, heavy stones.
‘The appeal of this story is largely in the questions it raises. Can extended academic life be a preparation for coping with the messy realities of human life? What is the nature of love? Can it be reduced to a mathematical formula that proves its truth? Can escape really bring freedom?’
Catherine Hall interviewed about The Proof of Love.
Catherine Hall reads from The Proof of Love.
Sarah Crown, judge for Fiction Uncovered 2011, on The Proof of Love.