The Parentations
PublisherPoint Blank
Date Published29 March 2018
Price£ 14.99

The Parentations

by Kate Mayfield

In Iceland there is a secret pool from which, if you drink, you gain immortality. In London, two elderly sisters have their lives changed permanently by contact with a family who are protecting a baby born of immortal parents.


Constance and Verity Fitzgerald are a pair of very wealthy widows who are seeking a lost boy in 18th century London. The Fowlers are a couple of dubious character, immigrants from Iceland, who are charged to care for a baby, born in Iceland. Clovis Fowler, the domineering, manipulative and beautiful aunt of the baby exerts a malign influence over all of the main protagonists of this cleverly written book. In the Fowler household is also Finn, her amoral but caring husband; the talented but very easily cowed young girl Willa; and an enigmatic young Chinese man, Jonesy, who enjoys sex with men.

In Iceland there is a pool of liquid. When travellers inadvertently drink from this pool they become immortal, providing they can maintain access to a very limited amount of the liquid throughout each year. A community of immortals forms but they are the object of malign supervision by a neighbouring family, who seek to uncover their secret. The baby Rafe, born of immortal parents, is sent to his aunt in London to be protected from this harm.

When all the Fowler household is incarcerated in Newgate Prison, the Fitzgeralds take on the care of the baby and thus become immoral in their turn.

The story follows these characters from 1783 to the present day, weaving a plot of devious cruelty and radiant hope, while exploring the complexities of living as immortal beings in a world surrounded by mortals. Kate Mayfield cleverly explores the jealousies of the mortals who crave not to age and the difficulty for immortals of watching those you love aging and dying. It is also a story of love, loyalty and dedication. The Fitzgerald sisters, with their effortless grace and charm, almost never lose hope of finding Rafe again. Clovis is determined in her drive to control all around her and to manage life to her best advantage.

Mayfield also evokes the changes in time throughout the book from 1793 to present day by subtle descriptions of what is worn, the instruments that are used, the transport that is taken and the gradual appearance of technological innovation. Attitudes to sex and sexuality evolve and language changes.

The Parentations is crafted masterfully. When I finished it, I breathed a loud sigh of contentment, as the end was as good as its entirety.

Reviewed 04 August 2018 by John Barnbrook