In 1920s’ rural Ireland, Pearl Somers lives happily with her parents, her sisters Opal and Ruby, and her little brother Willie, in the gate lodge of Kilnashone Castle, where her father is chauffeur to Lord and Lady Areton. But one dreadful night, a series of dramatic events unfold and the lives of all – elite and ordinary – are changed forever. Over 40 years later, Pearl has become a successful writer. Yet there is one story she has never told, until her young cousin Catherine confesses a secret of her own that opens a door to Pearl’s past – one she thought had been firmly sealed forever. When Catherine discovers Pearl’s story of heartbreak and yearning, she determines to do her best to reconcile past and present. But is it too late for Pearl to find her own happy ending?
WHAT I THOUGHT:
This is another author that I had never encountered before. The cover is elegantly beautiful and fits with the book perfectly. The book is set in Ireland, and having Irish roots myself, this alone is enough to get me hooked! There is even a mention of my grandparents’ home harbour-town, Courtown in County Wexford!
I must admit it took me a few chapters to get into, but I think that is because the previous couple of books I’d read had been aimed at younger readers. Once I’d adjusted, I really enjoyed the book. It’s tragic, yet enchanting. A totally different kind of love story; not clichéd or predictable but unique and beautiful.
Purcell finds inspiration from her own family history in the making of this novel: her grandparents lived in the gate lodge of Durrow Castle where her grandfather was a chauffeur for the Flower family who, like Pearl’s own father, ended up leaving Ireland to work for the family when they returned to England. Also like Pearl and Opal, Purcell’s mother and aunt came to Dublin as young girls to work in a café. I felt this connection in the authenticity of the book and I think it really helps bring the book to life.
This unique storyline is told from alternating points of view of three women within the family (two sisters, and a younger cousin from a different generation) and from alternating points in time (children, young women, and older women). Purcell’s writing style is fluent, and it works perfectly to bring the story together and to life. Gems of information are released at just the right time to keep you reading on. I have to say, my least favourite chapters were those told by Opal as I found her particularly difficult to engage with. However, her chapters are the fewest in number, and do work to bring the novel together.
This isn’t just an ordinary chick-lit novel, but an enchanting love story from a wonderful Irish author!