1925. The war is over and a new generation is coming of age, keen to put the trauma of the previous one behind them. Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure; to parties and drinking and staying just the right side of scandal. Lawrence Weston is a struggling artist, desperate to escape the poverty of his upbringing and make something of himself.
When their worlds collide one summer night, neither can resist the thrill of the forbidden, the lure of a love affair that they know cannot possibly last. But there is a dark side to pleasure and a price to be paid for breaking the rules. By the end of that summer, everything has changed. A decade later, nine-year-old Alice is staying at Blackwood Hall with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother’s letters to discover the secrets of the past, the truth about the present, and hope for the future.
As so many of my blogposts will testify, I absolutely adore a period read and this has to be my favourite of this year. Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the tour and giving me the chance to be transported back in time and getting the chance to meet Selina and Lawrence, who again have to be one of my favourite romantic pairings of 2019.
I loved the fact that this pair of star-crossed lovers, from totally different backgrounds, were brought together by what feels like fate one hot summer evening. A Summer evening that ends up having enormous repercussions for Alice 10 years later, and I was totally engrossed in her story that we uncover and the chance to hear more about the cache of letters that she uncovered.
Its the roaring 20s when the Bright Young Things were at the peak of their decadent denial of the war years. We first meet Selina when she’s caught up in a rackety and decadent world of parties, afternoon cocktails and midnight high jinks. Her only fears are wearing the wrong thing or being seated next to a frightful bore at dinner.
The party on the night in question takes the guise of a treasure hunt where the guests must rove around in packs deciphering the clues. Instead of cocktails and flirting, this party takes an unexpected turn when’s Selina finds herself taking care of a wounded animal and this is where Laurence enters her world.
Lawrence is from a wholly different social stratosphere- he’s a struggling artist who is Totally different to the young well bred society chaps that Selina is accustomed to, and pretty bored of meeting. As the summer unfolds, they rub shoulders at many summer entertainments and seek each other out at society exhibitions and parties – finding a strong connection in each other despite their social divide. As you can imagine, this relationship is very much frowned upon and has to be carried out with a bit of ingenuity as Lawrence is definitely not what most well-bred mamas were expecting their daughter to ‘catch’ in a successful Summer season. Selina Is definitely not one to obey social rules and throws caution and etiquette to the wind as she falls deeply in love with someone who she cares for far more than society’s expectations…
Alice plays the role of narrator in this novel and we fall absolutely in love with her story as this novel draws us skilfully in. She’s 10 years old when we meet her at Blackwood Hall, the home of her grandparents. She reminded me a bit of Mary in The Secret Garden as her life is quite a lonely one, in a world where she’s cared for by servants and governessses and misses her mother dreadfully. In order to assuage the pain of their separation, her mother challenges her to a treasure hunt – using her old letters like riddles to give her clues about her history and her past. This allows Alice to ‘meet’ her mother across the years, giving us an insight into the events of 1925 from a very personal perspective which really worked for me. I felt like this book held me in its spell and took me backwards in time so that I was experiencing these events right alongside them.
The fact that we are experiencing the narrative through two very distinct timelines is something else that I really love in a novel and I found myself equally captivated by both aspects of the novel. I found Alice to be an intriguing and captivating character and very much enjoyed the agile and intelligent way that she dealt with the mysteries in her mother’s letters and found myself rooting for her to be reunited with her mother soon after all her ingenuity.
This is the perfect read for a cosy afternoon on the sofa and it feels weird to be posting this from sunny Rhodes in the Dodecanese on my October break. Today is my blogging anniversary – it’s been 3 years since I wrote my very first blogpost and I can’t think of a better book to be celebrating my blogsversary with.
Make sure that you follow the rest of the fabulous bloggers on this RandomThings Tour and see how much they loved it too.
Treat yourself to a copy here
Writer On The Shelf
Iona Grey has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters.
Follow her on Twitter: @iona_grey.
‘An epic story of joyous hedonism and desperate heartache. Just beautiful’ CATHERINE ISAAC
‘Stunning’ VERONICA HENRY
‘Gorgeously written … I loved it’ JILL MANSELL
‘An enchanting, evocative read ‘THE SUN