Winterfold is a beautiful old and rambling house, home to David and Martha Winter. In celebration of her eightieth birthday Martha sends out an invitation calling on her children to a party followed by a family lunch where she is set to reveal a secret.
This is a good old fashioned family saga, complete with eccentric characters and even a dog and enough secrets to keep the pages turning. David is a famous illustrator whose biggest ambition was to show the world the reality of London during the war, with the exposed houses and the broken men and women who lived in them, instead he has been producing cartoons about Wilbur (the dog) ever since his eldest daughter, Daisy was six.
Martha had been forced to leave her artistic ambitions behind as a young woman with three children, Daisy, Florence and Bill, to make Winterfold a home full of laughter and happiness, in sharp contrast to the couple’s early life.
As in all good family sagas over the years disagreements and conflicting priorities have meant that the family has fractured. Daisy has rarely been seen having left her daughter Cat to be bought up by David and Martha, Florence is an academic with a somewhat lonely life, leaving only Bill a doctor close by.
The story flowed along, with multiple viewpoints and time periods adding layers of detail and background to the secret that Martha feels she can no longer keep. With a splash of romance, more than a few misunderstandings and some darker moments there was plenty to keep me entertained. This book was originally published in four parts and whereas by the end of the first part I definitely wanted to keep reading, I’m not sure whether I’d have been as motivated to continue after part two. Maybe I prefer my books as one but I got the feeling that there was an artificial cliff-hanger inserted at this point which didn’t feel quite natural. Unusually with a book of this style although I was most interested in David’s backstory, I didn’t feel particularly drawn to any of the other characters, although I left still wanting to understand Daisy more. Bill and Florence had their quirks and the younger generation had strong story-lines but Cat’s in particular didn’t really stand up to close inspection. That said I didn’t ever feel the story dragged, the pace was good (except for the forced ends to each of the parts) and there was plenty to ponder over as I put the book down to go to sleep.
I’m not sure this really bears comparison to Maeve Binchy’s books, hers do tend to be more heart-warming whereas this was a little grittier which is not necessarily a bad thing! I’d be more than a little tempted to pick up whatever Harriet Evans produces next but preferably if it was designed as one book and not four.
I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for allowing me to read this book in return for this honest review. This book was published in one volume in January 2015.