I LOVE to travel. Anyone who knows me well, knows it is one of my most favourite things to do. Travel. Anywhere. I'm up for the adventure. I'll even be ready to go very early in the morning. (ok, stop sniggering, those of you who know me real well and know I'm NOT an early morning person. I can be, when a trip is involved...) Sadly, I don't travel near as much as I would like to... So when I cannot travel, literally, for whatever reason, I travel figuratively. And I've been doing that a lot in the last few weeks. Travelling. In my mind... with my head buried in books. I've been to Newfoundland with Sweetland by Michael Crummey, Quebec City with Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny, occupied Paris, 1942 with The Tiger Claw by Shauna Singh Baldwin, and now I'm in Gaborone, Botswana with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. It's a great way to travel, when you can't do "the real thing." (Much cheaper too!)
Not long ago I spent some time in both England and Thailand via The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley. From the book jacket: "As a child, concert pianist Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park, the grand estate where her grandfather tended exotic orchids. Years later, while struggling with overwhelming grief over the death of her husband and young child, she returns to this tranquil place. There she reunites with Kit Crawford, heir to the estate and her possible salvation.
When they discover an old diary, Julia seeks out her grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed the estate. Their search takes them back to the 1940's when Harry, a former heir of Wharton Park, married his young society bride, Olivia, on the eve of World War II. When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt for generations to come....."
I enjoyed this beautifully written story, set for the most part in Norfolk England on a large estate. Riley skillfully weaves together past and present, generations of family characters, and England with WWII Bangkok and Changi prison, a Japanese POW camp. Her writing flows with almost a lyrical quality. Plot twists keep it interesting and it appeals both as a love story and as historical fiction. Who can resist the story of a wealthy family and their servants where passion flares, lies are told, secrets are kept... Hmmm... shades of Downton Abbey?
4 out of 5 stars.
"Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are." ~ Mason Cooley