Release Date: October 16
Publisher: Atria Books
During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy — her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.
Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past. Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre-WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds — Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy — who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined.
Moved to tears. Kate Morton’s artistic style becomes more and more polished with each book. I am deeply thankful and incredibly delighted to have been given this opportunity to read an advance copy of this book. She is one of my favorite authors, and this has easily been marked as one of my favorites this year.
True to her readers’ expectations, Morton’s slow-building, deeply woven, neo-gothic style continues in this novel, moving towards the middle of the twentieth century and out of Victorian / Edwardian England. Here we meet a range of characters in special circumstances: Dorothy, a young woman in love with Jimmy and obsessed with fantasy; Jimmy, an honorable and good man with incredible photographic talent; Vivien, an orphan with an inheritance, trapped in a gilded cage; Henry, a twisted man with a gift for words; and Laurel, the daughter on the hunt to discover the story behind a crime she witnessed.
With every chapter — each ending on a cliffhanger, I might add — Laurel discovers more about her mother’s history, and her mother’s history is revealed to the reader. The narrative jumps back and forth, starting in 1941, jumping to 2011, and then the late 1930s onward. Snippets of a puzzle begins to form, with some pieces that seem plausible to fitting in the right place and yet leave more questions than answers. Something is very wrong with Dorothy, her connection to Jimmy and Vivien, and her link to her future with her several children and the happy life she lived. Pieces do not quite match up. Bit by bit, the story unfolds, suspicion rises, and the final chapters hit with a bang.
I love stories like this. The antiquated feeling that neo-gothicism brings, the unraveling of a family history, the twists and turns and shocking revelations, the search for identity within an identity. I cannot wait for the rest of the world to read this book! I want to discuss it, but anything I say may spoil your enjoyment of discovery!