A revelatory novel about the poet Rupert Brooke from the Orange and Whitbread-shortlisted author of FRED AND EDIE.
In the summer of 1909, seventeen-year-old Nell Golightly is the new maid at the Orchard Tea Gardens in Cambridgeshire when Rupert Brooke moves in as a lodger. Famed for his looks and flouting of convention, the young poet captures the hearts of men and women alike, yet his own seems to stay intact. Even Nell, despite her good sense, begins to fall for him. What is his secret?
This captivating novel gives voice to Rupert Brooke himself in a tale of mutual fascination and inner turmoil, set at a time of great social unrest. Revealing a man far more complex and radical than legend suggests, it powerfully conveys the allure and curse of charisma.
Moving, intelligent, beautifully written and hugely enjoyable - Sunday Times
Dawson brilliantly evokes Brooke's volatility, his inner dissolution and ultimate breakdown. - Independent
Strong, satisfying and memorable - Helen Dunmore, The Times
Not only engaging and seductive, it is also clever, witty and artfully designed - Times Literary Supplement
An exceptional book even from the prize-winning Dawson - clever, moving, sexy and with a mesmerising feel for that magical, optimistic, but doomed time just before the Great War - Daily Mail
Nell is a wonderful creation: resilient, intelligent and heart-breakingly innocent . . . [Dawson]manages not only an impressive evocation of Brooke's milieu but a compelling reassessment of a poet often dismissed by modern readers . . . most of all, her novel digs Brooke out of that corner of a foreign field that is forever clich? - Time Out
Jill Dawson has created a convincing world of huge pathos; a subtle, evocative anti-fairy-tale of doomed youth by one of Britain's most subtle and accomplished writers - Liz Jensen, Waterstone's Books Quarterly
The Great Lover has many wonderful scenes . . . But it is remarkable principally for its Rupert Brooke, glorious in all his agony and shame, particularly as he sees his sanity slipping away from him . . . this novel shows a rare mastery of materials. Dawson has worked the imaginary character of Nell so seamlessly into the narrative of Brooke's life that Nell seems to belong there. It is difficult to see where the many direct quotations from letters and memories end and Dawson's imagination begins. - Daily Telegraph
Jill Dawson is the author of the novels Trick of the Light, Magpie, Fred and Edie, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, Wild Boy, Watch Me Disappear, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize, The Great Lover, Lucky Bunny, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Crime Writer, which won the East Anglian Book of the Year. An award-winning poet, she has also edited several poetry and short story anthologies.
Jill Dawson has held many Fellowships, including the Creative Writing Fellowship at the University of East Anglia. In 2008 she founded a mentoring scheme for new writers, Gold Dust. She lives in the Cambridgeshire Fens.