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Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore

Zennor in Darkness

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This is Helen Dunmore’s first novel and although some of her later novels have been more widely read and more obvious commercial bestsellers, this one is an outstanding piece of writing that will truly stand the test of time. During World War I, D.H. Lawrence and his wife moved to Cornwall where they became the subject of intense suspicion from the locals and this forms the inspiration for the novel centering on Clare, a young girl who comes under the influence of the Lawrences. Dunmore is superb at evoking characters from the past and yet making you feel relaxed in their company and the situations these characters are found in are captured perfectly as well.

If you like Helen Dunmore you might also like to read books by Emma Tennant, David Benioff and Esther Freud.


Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore

It is May 1917 and war overshadows the haunting beauty of spring in Zennor. As U-boats attack ship after ship on the Cornish coastline, the village is alive with talk of treachery. In a world of call-up, telegrams, suspicions and silent fears, no one is immune.

Not Clare Coyne, a young artist, nor Clare’s beloved cousin John William, on leave from the trenches and shell-shocked. And especially not D. H. Lawrence and his German wife Frieda who, hoping to escape the war-fever of London, find themselves the objects of the shifting, dangerous tide of scorn and gossip. Helen Dunmore’s compelling first novel is a passionate story of love, betrayal and self-discovery in wartime.


'Deceit gives Helen Dunmore's novels a jagged edge. Secrets, unspoken words, lies that have the truth wrapped up in them somewhere make her stories ripple with menace and suspense' Penny Perrick, Sunday Times

'Extremely electrifying earthiness...Helen Dunmore mesmerizes you with her magical pen' - Val Hennessy, Daily Mail

'We believe in Clare's intelligence, talent and passion, and it is something of a triumph that the dense pleasures of landscape and texture never overpower our involvement in her story' - Elaine Feinstein, Independent on Sunday

About the Author

Helen Dunmore

Helen Dunmore was the author of fourteen novels. Her first, Zennor in Darkness, explored the events which led to D H Lawrence’s expulsion from Cornwall (on suspicion of spying) during the First World War. It won the McKitterick Prize. Her third novel, A Spell of Winter, won the inaugural Orange Prize, now the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction. Her bestselling novel The Siege, set during the Siege of Leningrad, was described by Antony Beevor as ‘a world-class novel’ and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year and the Orange Prize.

Helen Dunmore’s work has been translated into more than thirty languages and she was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She died in June 2017.

Author photo © Caroline Forbes

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Book Info

Publication date

24th February 1994


Helen Dunmore

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Penguin Books Ltd


Paperback (b Format)
320 pages


Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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