A heart-rending page turner which sweeps from war-torn Europe to Thailand and back again . . .First of all, doesn't this cover positively SCREAM Kate Morton? I don't mind one bit as I think it's a gorgeous cover, but still a liiiittle obvious. The summary sounds quite a bit like a Kate Morton story too, which is brilliant if you're a fan of Ms Morton and you need a quick fix when you're waiting for her next book (speaking of which, where is it?????). And the best news? Unlike some other books I've read that appeared to have tried to match Ms Morton's level of storytelling and not quite managed, this one can actually compare! The story was great and I couldn't put the book down ...
As a child Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park estate, where her grandfather tended the exotic flowers. So when a family tragedy strikes, Julia returns to the tranquility of Wharton Park and its hothouse.
Recently inherited by charismatic Kit Crawford, the estate is undergoing renovation. This leads to the discovery of an old diary, prompting the pair to seek out Julia's grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed Wharton Park.
Julia is taken back to the 1940s where the fortunes of young couple Olivia and Harry Crawford will have terrible consequences on generations to come. For as war breaks out Olivia and Harry are cruelly separated ...
As the story opens, we meet Julia, a young woman who is still recovering from a horrible personal tragedy and she has travelled back to England from France to hopefully heal her wounds. She becomes involved with Wharton Park again, once magnificent but now a crumbling property that has recently been inherited by Kit. They came across a diary and Julia's grandmother Elsie, who was a maid at Wharton Park when the diary came to be, tells them what really happened during World War II when master Harry married Olivia and was soon after sent on an overseas mission to Thailand ... So what is in the diary? And how did Olivia go from being an exquisite debutante to such a bitter old woman?
The author really knows how to tell a great story and how to connect the present narrative with Julia and the past narrative with Harry in Thailand and all the consequences of that. I found myself really engrossed into the story and raced through the pages to learn what really happened all those years ago, and at the same time really felt for Julia. A lot of secrets are interwoven in the story (including a shocking appearance towards the end - whoa!) and I really enjoyed reading both stories, set in Thailand and in the English countryside.
On top of wonderful plot, I thought the characters were really well portrayed too. Namely Julia's pain was palpable and her story just broke my heart. I grew incredibly fond of Kit, was fascinated by Olivia and really warmed up to Elsie as well as other side characters.
I believe this is the author's debut and oh what a great piece of fiction it is! I'm so glad she got published and I'm very happy to report that she has another book coming out in October called THE GIRL ON THE CLIFF, which sounds fantastic - right up my alley! I cannot wait to see the cover and to finally read it!
I'm sure the author is fed up with being compared to Kate Morton, but I'm afraid that's unavoidable and nothing short of a compliment! Overall, if enjoy novels that connect the present and the past and tie it all up with an intriguing mystery, then this is the book for you! Definitely recommended.
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 5/5
Watch the interview with the author below.