I’m a big fan of fiction written against a well-researched historical background and this 688 page novel delivers the tale of young Indian Anahita Chevran which weaves between her homeland and England where she is trapped at the beginning of World War I. During her time in England she spent time at Astbury Hall as the companion to Princess Indira. Lady Maud Astbury makes it quite clear that poor Anahita is an unwelcome addition to the household but with few options as an orphan, it is clear that she has to endure her time spent in this remote stately home.
In the present day Rebecca Bradley is an actress filming a period drama set in the 1920’s at Astbury Hall, in Dartmoor. Rebecca is eager to escape the press interest about her private life and so the trip to England is the perfect solution. There is a surprise in store when she becomes friendly with the resident Lord Astbury who is amazed at her likeness to his Grandmother Violet.
I can only admire Lucinda Riley’s story-telling as a large part of this story not only demanded that the historical details felt authentic, but also that the tale of Anahita’s life in India felt equally genuine and on both counts she succeeded. Although romantic attachments are key to the lives of a number of the characters there is also a dark mystery to be uncovered.
For me the power of a dual time-line novel depends on the past and the present being equally believable and although for me understanding what the truth was of Anahita’s life was what kept me reading the tie-in to the present day story was integral to the whole tale, one could simply not have existed without the other.
The pacing of this story is masterfully done, after all this is a long book yet one that I immersed myself in as letters, diaries and long-held family secrets were slowly uncovered. The central character in this book is Anahita and her character was well fleshed out although what stopped me awarding this book five stars is although there were other engaging characters including Princess Indira and Mrs Trevathan I did find a few of them quite wishy-washy but this wasn’t enough to spoil what is an epic story which beautifully contrasts different cultures, different times all wrapped up with a tale set perfectly within its time period.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers Atria Books in return for my honest review.
This is the fourth novel Lucinda Riley has published her previous books are:
The Hothouse Flower which I have just realised is on my bookshelf, unread. This was one of the Richard and Judy picks for 2011.
A heart-rending page turner which sweeps from war-torn Europe to Thailand and back again . . .
As a child Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park estate, where her grandfather tended the exotic flowers.
So when a family tragedy strikes, Julia returns to the tranquility of Wharton Park and its hothouse. Recently inherited by charismatic Kit Crawford, the estate is undergoing renovation. This leads to the discovery of an old diary, prompting the pair to seek out Julia’s grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed Wharton Park.
Julia is taken back to the 1940s where the fortunes of young couple Olivia and Harry Crawford will have terrible consequences on generations to come. For as war breaks out Olivia and Harry are cruelly separated . . .Goodreads
Why has a secret from 1914 caused a century of heartache?
Troubled by recent loss, Grania Ryan has returned to Ireland and the arms of her loving family. And it is here, on a cliff edge, that she first meets a young girl, Aurora, who will profoundly change her life.
Mysteriously drawn to Aurora, Grania discovers that the histories of their families are strangely and deeply entwined . . .
From a bittersweet romance in wartime London to a troubled relationship in contemporary New York, from devotion to a foundling child to forgotten memories of a lost brother, the Ryans and the Lisles, past and present, have been entangled for a century. Ultimately, it will be Aurora whose intuition and remarkable spirit help break the spell and unlock the chains of the past.
Haunting, uplifting and deeply moving, Aurora’s story tells of the triumph of hope over loss.Goodreads
and my favourite, The Light Behind The Window whose historical setting was World War II
Emilie de la Martiniéres has always fought against her aristocratic background, but after the death of her glamorous, distant mother, she finds herself alone in the world and sole inheritor of her grand childhood home in the south of France. An old notebook of poems leads her in search of the mysterious and beautiful Sophia, whose tragic love affair changed the course of her family history. As Emilie unravels the story, she too embarks on her own journey of discovery, realising that the château may provide clues to her own difficult past and finally unlock the future.
London 1943. A young office clerk, Constance Carruthers, is drafted into the SOE, arriving in occupied Paris during the climax of the conflict. Separated from her contact in her very first hours in France, she stumbles into the heart of a wealthy family who are caught up in a deadly game of secrets and lies. Forced to surrender her identity and all ties to her homeland and her beloved husband, Constance finds herself drawn into a complex web of deception, the repercussions of which will affect generations to come.
From the author of the international bestseller, Hothouse Flower, Lucinda Riley’s new novel is a breathtaking and intense story of love, war and, above all, forgiveness. Goodreads