We all have our favourite authors and Hannah Richell is one of mine. When Hannah blogged about her new novel, The Peacock Summer, I was very excited and had to get my hands on a copy. She writes about the things we find difficult to acknowledge, the things we hide, and yet have a huge impact on our lives and those around us. And how acceptance is letting go and moving forward.
If you haven’t read any of Hannah Richell’s novels yet, you should!
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 1587 KB
Print Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Orion; Digital original edition (28 Jun. 2018)
A compelling story of hidden secrets and forbidden love, from the bestselling author of The Secrets of the Tides.
‘If she could reach back through the years and warn the person she once was, what would she say? … What would she say to the ghosts who now inhabit her days? So many of those she has loved are now nothing but dust and memory.’
At twenty-six, Lillian feels trapped by life. Her marriage to Charles Oberon has not turned out the way she expected it would. To her it seems she is just another object captured within the walls of Cloudesley, her husband’s beautiful manor house tucked away high in the Chiltern Hills. But, with a young step-son and a sister to care for, Lillian accepts there is no way out for her. Then Charles makes an arrangement with an enigmatic artist visiting their home and his presence will unbalance everything she thought she knew and understood.
Maggie Oberon ran from the hurt and resentment she caused. Half a world away, in Australia, it was easier to forget, to pretend she didn’t care. But when her elderly grandmother, Lillian, falls ill she must head back to Cloudesley. Forced to face her past, Maggie fights to hold herself and her family’s legacy together as she learns that all she thought was real, all that she held so close, was never as it seemed.
Two summers, decades apart.
Two women whose lives are forever entwined.
And a house that holds the dark secrets that could free them both.
I loved the format of the storytelling in The Peacock Summer. Lillian, very frail in the present day and being cared for by granddaughter Maggie, flashes back to pivotal events in 1955. The flashbacks are prompted by things such as the flower show or the sound of a car engine which tie in beautifully for a smooth transition between the timelines keeping the flow of the story. There are vast opposites between the opulence of the past to the frugality of the present day both in the way of life and the house itself.
Life for Lillian is nothing like she thought it would be – partly because of what happens as a child in WWII and because of her marriage to Charles. Her privileged life is isolated and empty and the only love she receives is from stepson Albie. Despite Charles’ experience of fighting in the war and the loss of his first wife, there really is no excuse for what he does. He is insidious and really got under my skin. It’s a very genteel life on the surface … Lillian has so much strength that she’s not even aware of. I loved her. Jack Fincher arriving for the summer is the best (and worst) thing that could happen.
Cloudesley manor house needs some serious renovation in the present day and Maggie is trying to find her way around keeping it for Lillian. Not only that, she needs to confront her own weaknesses and make amends for her actions. Albie is the only parent she has contact with but he’s more absent than present. At 26 years old, a truth she believed in and had lived her life by is “the people you love leave.” As Lillian’s carer she realises:
The simplest acts of devotion are often those that send the strongest messages of love.
Maggie’s perceptions from her childhood of growing up with Lillian and Charles colour her beliefs about the world and they’re not right. I found myself shouting at her – look below the surface! Don’t take it at face value! There’s more to this than you know! Maggie isn’t the only character who makes mistakes in her perceptions.
I had so many questions. Why was the West wing sealed off? What happened to Lillian’s sister? What did Maggie do that she feels so guilty about? How did this happen? Was that him? Did he make that happen? What was she doing with that? Who is watching?
I wish I could convey to you the underlying energy, atmosphere and tension of The Peacock Summer. It is suspenseful, poignant, and yes compelling but there’s so much more. It’s a dark and gritty look at humanity. Duty and what should be done (remember this is 1955 when although WWII changed many things, there is still a different set of expectations) conflicts with personal happiness. The Peacock Summer holds its secrets close (one secret I didn’t guess – so I had my own perceptions and took something at face value!) and the emotions I felt while reading are not fleeting. One of my top reads this year and not to be missed.
The Peacock Summer publishes today in digital and hardcover formats.
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