Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight, by Steven Carroll

14 April 2022
Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight, by Steven Carroll, book cover

Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight (published by HarperCollins, March 2022), by Melbourne base Australian novelist Steven Carroll, re-imagines a different, perhaps happier, life for Vivienne Haigh-Wood, the troubled first wife of English author and poet, T. S. Eliot.

London, June 1940. With help from friends, Vivienne Haigh-Wood, the wife of celebrated poet TS Eliot, is about to effect a daring escape from Northumberland House, the private insane asylum where she has been held for the past four years. Her family, and most particularly her husband, think she’s insane – and maybe she has been, in the past, Vivienne thinks, mad with love, that is, but she is starting to finally feel like herself again.

There is an old law, Vivienne has been told, that if a person can break out of an asylum and stay free for thirty days, proving they can look after themselves, they can’t make you go back. But closing in on Vivienne is the young Detective Sergeant Stephen Minter, a man with a hidden past of his own, who has orders to track her down…

Eliot is often referred to, though he does not feature as a character, while the presence of the police officer, Stephen Minter, at times lends Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight, the final instalment of The Eliot Quartet, with the feel of a police procedural, says Dennis Haskell, writing for The Sydney Morning Herald:

The novel is in part a detective story, but not your usual crime caper. Vivienne’s crime is not really a crime at all; Minter is the opposite of any hard-boiled cop; and Goodnight is not plot-driven. Carroll’s interest is always in character, and his novels are more thoughtful and meditative than dramatic.

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