The Great War is over, a new decade has dawned and it will bring some changes. However for four women, the effect of the war is going to last a lot longer and change their lives in ways they may not have imagined.
Lydia is one of the lucky ones, her man survived the war. She knows nothing of heartache, of poverty only of wealth and a protected privileged lifestyle.
Her friend, Ava is only out to have a good time. She does not want to be tied down, she doesn’t want to go through the expected rigmarole of marriage and all the expectations of society. Ava is ahead of her time, she is what Lydia seems to emulate, but somehow only Ava can make it look right and respectable.
Sarah and her sister Beatrice are in a different class it seems to Ava and Lydia, despite them all having once dazzled as debutante. Sarah is living her life as best she can now she no longer has a husband and is a war widow with children to bring up. Beatrice is living a secondary lifestyle in society as she is not going to stand out amongst her sparkling friends and has to make do helping someone else become that debutante and find the right man.
These four women drive the story along, although for me it was dominated too much by Lydia and her story. I would like to have learnt more about Sarah and Beatrice and their family. Their brother features intermittently to show that some men came back from war but they came back irreparably damaged. Ava was a feisty character and I liked her the most, her intelligence was her asset and she used her beauty and position in society to simply move forward ideas. She was the one who was going to gain the most unlike Lydia who seemed to have much to lose.
I did not at any point warm to Lydia, her attitude grated me and her actions were testing. Whilst I did not like her very much, this actually made her a character you loved to despise. There is some skill in an author to evoke that sort of reaction in me. I read on as Lydia’s choices unfolded in front of me and I was unable to do anything about it, especially as they seemed to take a long time to build to any sort of conclusion. When it got there I was not left surprised.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed Adele Parks debut into historical fiction. It is a difficult genre to perhaps tackle and this was a very good first attempt. It was a book that challenged me and took me into a different time and place. I am interested to see if her future writing takes back to other periods and whether she can successfully combine the two.
My review is perhaps a little woolly. I enjoyed the book as I do historical fiction. I have read some of Parks other novels, so I was interested to see how she tackled this. The overriding factor that I noticed is that I read the book, her women’s fiction novels I can get trough at quite a pace. This was a book that needed to be savoured and read carefully, which is why it challenged me. I had made an assumption when I picked it up that I would be reading it as if I was reading her contemporary fiction. I was wrong.
It is interesting always to see when an author takes another direction.