I read a lot of books and I enjoy pretty much all of them. It’s rare, though, to discover one that moves you so much, you find yourself gazing off into the distance, holding it in your hands and dreaming of the characters within. It’s no secret I love Kate Morton’s books and I think Hannah Richell has many similar elements to Kate’s stories. I’ve found a new favourite author to add to my growing list!
I want to pull out all the superlatives with this one – captivating, compelling, stunning. But why did I like it so much? It starts with the dazzling cover with muted colours and the imagery of the peacocks that are abundant throughout the novel. You know something special is contained inside. It is a story set in a crumbling old manor house in rural England that holds many secrets. The two main characters are 86 year old, Lillian, grandmother to 26 year old Maggie, both flawed and lovable but more than that, they gain our empathy. As Lillian’s health fails, Maggie returns to Cloudesley, the manor house. Maggie is trying to fix her life, whilst Lillian is trying to reconcile the one she’s lived. They come together over one summer but it’s the secrets of one summer decades ago that we learn of through the story and that changed their lives forever. Cloudesley is a character of its own and Richell plants us there so beautifully, we can picture ourselves walking the long and narrow hallways of the house, or ascending its grand staircase, roaming the gardens and through the woods. But for Lillian, not everything is as it seems and we learn of her lifestyle and the choices she’s had to make. For both characters there’s forbidden and unrequited love. Richell beautifully drip-feeds the past into the present and provides a few twists and turns along the way.
This book is truly moving and special and I adored it. I loved Maggie and Lillian and loved the English countryside setting. I was completely captivated by the enduring love both women experience. It’s always about the romance for me and here, it’s in abundance.
I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t read Hannah Richell’s two previous novels. I situation that I intend to rectify immediately. You will love this one if you are a fan of old houses, family secrets, loss, love and beautiful writing. I highly recommend it.