The Great Lover by Jill Dawson

A d v e r t i s e m e n t

Synopsis taken from

Described as ‘the flower of his country’s youth’, the poet Rupert Brooke was adored by both men and women, yet he was always dancing out of his lovers’ reach. What was his secret? Did he love no one but himself?

In this seductive and poignant novel, Jill Dawson evokes Rupert Brooke through his own words and those of Nell Golightly, a young housemaid at his Grantchester lodgings who falls under his spell. Capturing the often perverse ways of the human heart, it reveals a far more complex, troubled man than his romanticised image suggests.

In her old age, Nell Golightly receives a strange letter. A Tahitian woman, claiming to be the daughter of the poet Rupert Brooke, writes to ask her to describe him – his voice, his smell, how it felt to hold him. And to explain why all of England remembered him . . .

Turning her mind to the summer of 1909, Nell relives her first encounter with the young poet. She was sixteen, the new housemaid at the Orchard Tea Gardens in Grantchester, and he was the new tenant, already causing a stir with his boyish good looks and habit of swimming naked in nearby Byron’s Pool. Nell soon realises that everyone he meets falls in love with him, while he remains flippant and flirtatious and, apparently, loves no one but himself. Worst of all, despite her good sense, even she seems to be falling under his spell. What is his secret? Does he prefer men? Is he, in fact, capable of love at all?

With great skill and playfulness, Jill Dawson gives voice to Rupert Brooke himself in a narrative told from both his point of view and that of her spirited character, Nell. Revealing a man more surprising, complex and radical than his romanticised image suggests, her novel powerfully conveys the allure of charisma as it captures the mysterious and often perverse workings of the human heart.

My review:

I finished reading this book about 2 weeks ago. I’ve never heard about Rupert Brooke before and only researched about him after reading this book. I am amazed how the writer managed to write a fiction based on a true person and includes his writing and poem throughout the book.

The character of Nell in the story however is totally fictional. It is necessary though for Nell to exist in the story to let people know who Rupert Brooke was from another person’s perspective.

Overall it is a nice book to read. Quoting from a review online, this is a compelling portrait of a failed love affair and of a damaged man who is so cut off from the world that he cannot allow himself to be found by those around him.

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