By: Judith Kinghorn
Published Year: 2017
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.
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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): From the acclaimed author of The Last Summer, a captivating and moving story of the unlikely relationship between a lady and her maid on the eve of World War I.
As I watched him—his long legs striding the narrow path through the heather, his golden hair catching the sun—I had a hideous feeling in the pit of my stomach. For it seemed as though he was already marching away from me.
In 1914, despite the clouds of war threatening Europe, Pearl Gibson’s future is bright. She has secured a position as a lady’s maid to a wealthy Northumberland aristocrat, a job that will win her not only respect but an opportunity to travel and live in luxury. Her new life at Lady Ottoline Campbell’s Scottish summer estate is a whirlwind of intrigue and glamour, scandals and confidences—and surprisingly, a strange but intimate friendship with her employer.
But when violence erupts in Europe, Pearl and Ottoline’s world is irrevocably changed. As the men in their lives are called to the front lines, leaving them behind to anxiously brace for bad news, Pearl realizes she must share one final secret with her mistress—a secret that will bind them together forever...
The cover of this book was so intriguing! I pretty much accepted this book for review based on the cover alone. I mean, I read the summary and was intrigued as well, but the cover truly sold me. Definitely one I would have picked up off of the shelves to read the summary of based on the cover alone. Over the past few years (mostly the blogging years) I have noticed that I enjoy reading World War 2 novels, so this one about World War 1 seemed right up my alley.
What I thought
I am so sorry, but I truly disliked this book. I wanted so badly to like it, but if it had not been a book I accepted for review, it would've been a DNF (did not finish). I am not one to put books own lightly, so that should say enough in and of itself. I will try to keep this review as positively constructive as possible, but it just was not my cup of tea.
Pearl is 24 years old and a lady's maid. At the beginning of the novel, she accepts a new position under Lady Ottoline, right before the start of World War 1. Pearl takes a trip to Scotland with Lady Ottoline and her family right before war is declared. There she meets Lady Ottoline's cousin Ralph. Pearl had briefly met him at the train station on her way to Lady Ottoline's and introduced herself to him as Ottoline, so she's a bit caught out when she finds out who she is. Regardless, she is attracted to him and drawn to him. However, she finds out that Lady Ottoline and Ralph are having an affair! But wait! No they're not! Lady Ottoline is actually having an affair with someone else. When Pearl finally finds that out, she starts falling back in love with Ralph. Who is married! It's a bit convoluted and seems like no matter Ralph's faults, Pearl is destined to fall in love with him.
All of this drama happens early on in the book. Ralph and Lady Ottoline's sons end up going off to war, leaving the women alone. Ottoline is pregnant with her lover's baby, and surprise surprise, Pearl is pregnant with Ralph's baby (which she doesn't discover until after he is gone). The rest of the story follows Pearl as she tries to survive during war time with a new baby and find herself. Oh! And I forgot! On top of all of this, Pearl has no family. Her mother committed suicide after she was born and her great Aunt Kitty who raised her, died when she was 17.
Are you exhausted yet? I feel like giving the summary is in and of itself an explanation as to why I didn't enjoy this book. There is so much going on and it is under 300 pages! Pearl and Ralph are the definition of an annoying instalove. I typically don't mind when two characters fall in love immediately, but usually we get a bit of relationship building within that. Pearl and Ralph's relationship is so quick that it was completely baffling to me as to why she clung to him for so many years.
I think this would've been much more interesting if the book focused a little more on her family situation. It is talked about throughout the book, but nothing comes of it until about the final quarter of the book, and it happens completely by accident! I just felt like I couldn't connect with Pearl because she couldn't connect with herself. This book wanted to be a coming of age story, but Pearl never figured out who she was.
In addition to the above issues, this book was painfully predictable. So much so that I felt like if I put it down about half way through like I wanted to, I wouldn't have been left wondering what was going to happen. And not just because I truly didn't care.
The beginning of the book started out promising, but then just dragged. There was nothing that kept me interested in where Pearl's life was going. When I finally got there, the ending was satisfying, but not worth the amount of time that it took to get there.
By: Judith Kinghorn