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Larkswood by Valerie Mendes


by Valerie Mendes

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Someone should create a website for readers called 'Honest Blurbs', as in 'Yeah, the plot sounds good, but be warned: the characters are cliches and the writing wanders between Enid Blyton and penny dreadful'. I'm sure Valerie Mendes' 'leap in the murky dark and adult marketplace' was well researched (she practically includes footnotes for The Times newspaper), but the end result is basically a YA novel peppered with 'taboo' themes.

Uh, spoilers? (Although I think the author has already covered that base).

I'm sure fictional incest done 'right', whatever that entails, is shocking and scandalous - as some of the hilarious reviews for Philippa Gregory's Wideacre testify - but incest glossed over as a plot device is comical and crude. The worst part of the novel for me wasn't the 'dark' plot, but the ridiculous characters - the Hamiltons are so dysfunctional, from Captain Hook and Cruella DeVille in 1897 to the 'top-hole' second generation London socialites in 1939, that I could completely believe they were all inbred. What other explanation is there? 'Grandfather' Edward, inheritor of Larkswood and believer of 'keeping it in the family', uses phrases like 'Holy smokes' and 'pukka' (as a gentle reminder that he was exiled to India), while 'Silly Milly', sister of the heroine of the hour, speaks primarily in italics. (I was waiting for one of the 'modern day' Hamiltons to order up 'lashings and lashings of ginger beer', such was the caliber of the dialogue.) Then Cynthia - was Cynthia even a popular name in the Victorian era? - announced that actually - surprise! - she had given birth in secret to two illegitimate babies but the boy was adopted out, and I gave up. Really? Really really? In fact, no, I started laughing at that point, and gave up when said son turned up in India recovering from amnesia. Of course, incest, secret children, and general dysfunctional family divisions were all neatly resolved and tied up with a big pink bow by the end, but I was speed-reading by that point, so little did I care and so much did I want to be free of this hysterical historical.

Good start, fair pacing, terrible plotting - and whoever penned the blurb is either an evil genius or an estate agent. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Jan 20, 2016 |
Historical Fiction Really well done!!
Good story great setting Looming war approaching....very good read would recommend ( )
  maximeg | Mar 26, 2014 |
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Larkswood House is home to the Hamilton children - Edward, Cynthia and Harriet - who enjoy the freedom and excitement of privilege. But in the glorious summer of 1896, with absent parents and a departed governess, disaster strikes the family, leaving it cruelly divided. More than forty years later, on the eve of the Second World War, Louisa Hamilton, newly presented at court but struck down with glandular fever, is sent to Larkswood to recuperate. There, for the first time, she meets her grandfather, Edward, home after decades in India. But as Louisa begins to fall under the spell of Larkswood, she realises it holds the key to the mystery that shattered her family two generations before. Will she find the courage to unravel the dark secrets of the past? And can Larkswood ever become home to happiness again?… (more)

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