I am really enjoying finding new authors as part of the #QuercusSummer Reading Book Club. It’s easy to fall into reading your favourite authors isn’t it! Florence Grace has become one of my favourite protagonists of 2016. This will be one of those reviews that’s hard to write as I stumble over the words and won’t be able to show you how much I loved this historical novel
Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Quercus (30 Jun. 2016)
Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It’s a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone. But when Florrie is fifteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie’s life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth. Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.
From the very beginning, 13 year old Florence Grace comes alive on the pages. She knows where she belongs in the small community. The routines of life with Nan keep her grounded but you get the feeling she is on the edge of something. I loved the affinity she has with the spirits of the moors. Old Rilla, the wise woman, teaches her skills but that’s not where her destiny lays.
Working at an engagement party in Truro bowls over Florrie and her friends Hesta and Stephen. Everything is so different from what they are used to. It’s a night for new sights, sounds and experiences but also a night that leaves her feeling restless. For me it was also about showing the reader more facets of Florrie’s personality.
In 1850, when Florrie is 15, she moves to the Grace family home Helicon near Belgrave Square. Oh I loved the rebellion against Aunt Dinah – I didn’t want Florrie to fit into their false and genteel lives. Would she lose that bold spirit that I loved so much? Outwardly would she conform as a Grace but inwardly still be a Buckley? Would she lose herself? Two very different worlds wouldn’t be compatible … or could they be?
I found the Grace family fascinating. What was underneath that facade? Would we get to see who they really were? I did enjoy Florrie’s relationship with grandfather Hawker. They had a fabulous connection. Her relationship with Turlington was such a tangle of emotions, stripping away the banal. It was raw and real.
I loved the history. The routines of their days in London, the fashion, society and leisure activities. John Broadwood & Sons (piano manufacturer) is mentioned and I must admit I was quite excited – my 2 x gt grandfather worked for this company as a French Polisher and certainly in 1858 when he married. Of course he wouldn’t have socialised with the same circles that the Grace’s moved in …
Florence Grace’s character is tempered by her experiences. We see her go through transformations. Being a part of her inner journey caught and held my emotions. Strongly. When you’re extremely sad that a story is over (those 560 pages weren’t enough!) and you’re left feeling as if you’ve lost your best friend, you know without a shadow of a doubt that it’s one of the best books you’ve read.
Tracy Rees was the winner of the Richard and Judy ‘Search for a Bestseller’ Competition and her first book, Amy Snow, was a Richard and Judy and Kindle bestseller. A Cambridge graduate, she had a successful eight-year career in nonfiction publishing and a second career practising and teaching humanistic counselling before becoming a writer. She lives in Wales.
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