Occasion of Sin

Occasion of Sin

(1982) Penguin

‘Rachel Billington is a mistress of her craft… a convincing novel of passion’ New York Times Book Review

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As a teenager, I read compulsively the English and Russian nineteenth century novels. Anna Karenina was always my favourite. I thought and still thinks it’s the greatest novel ever written. (With Greta Garbo in the title role, it was also made into one of the greatest films.) Occasion of Sin was written in a spirit of homage. It uses the basic structure and characterisation of Tolstoy’s tragic love story but sets the scene in England in the early eighties. Anna or in my novel, Laura, leaves her cold, unsympathetic husband for her dashing younger lover. She also leaves behind her young son whose father prevents her from seeing him. Of course the pressure of society were entirely different in my twentieth century novel than in Tolstoy’s times. This threw more weight onto the relationship between the two lovers and Laura’s deepening misery at the separation from her young son. By the end, I had realised that the two books were gradually diverging so that Occasion of Sin doesn’t try and replay the famous last scene of Anna Karenina when Anna, utterly despairing, certain her lover no longer cares for her, throws herself under a train.

‘Irony, Tenderness and wit… a considerable imaginative achievement’ Financial Times

‘Perceptive and well-written… a series of scenes that shift from London to New York to Italy to Ireland, each as narrowly focussed and intense as the passion itself’ The Washington Post

‘Rachel Billington is a mistress of her craft… this is a memorable novel…a convincing novel of passion’ New York Times Book Review

‘Brilliantly charted, set down with freshness, conivtion and psychological truth’ Daily Telegraph

Marvellous…How could you resist such a novel’ Punch

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