Lucinda RileyThis is a heart-rending page turner which sweeps from war-torn Europe to Thailand and back again ...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...
This debut novel is a real saga, describing the secret history of an ancient Norfolk stately home, and the chequered, shady pasts of its most recent inhabitants, which has led to the gradual decay of the fortunes of the great Wharton Park estate.
Our heroine is Julia Forrester, a world-acclaimed concert pianist, who has just lost her husband and little boy in an horrific car crash. They had been living in France; now she returns to her childhood roots in Norfolk to grieve alone.
But once back in close proximity to Wharton Park, where her grandfather worked as head gardener, she meets Kit Crawford, the young man who has inherited the title, and the estate. Now forced to sell the grand house and land because the estate is so heavily in debt, he renovates the old cottage once lived in by Julia’s grandparents, as a humble place to stay. But there he finds a secret diary; thinking it was written by Julia’s grandfather, he gives it to her.
But what is revealed in the diary is earth-shattering. It takes Julia, and the reader, back in time to the story of Harry and Olivia Crawford, a young couple who once seemed so in love, but whose marriage was torn apart by the Second World War.
Harry, it’s revealed, had a secret life in Thailand; and the exotic blooms, the rare and delicate orchids for which the Wharton greenhouse is famed, and which Julia’s grandfather devoted his life to nurturing, assume a new, darker meaning.
What really fascinates me about this novel is the account of how a standard upper-class English marriage, especially one in which property, inheritance, and the responsibility of looking after an historic estate on which the livelihoods of hundreds of local people depend, could be almost instantly shattered by the terrible reality of war.
Young Lord Harry Crawford is married to the beautiful Olivia, who is expecting his child. But he finds his life turned upside down when he is incarcerated in a Japanese POW camp. When he is released, starved and weak from fever, he spends weeks recovering in Bangkok. Slowly he realises he no longer wants to go home to assume his huge responsibilities in Norfolk.
Instead he stays in Thailand, surrounded by the exotic hothouse flowers he adores. He falls in love with a young Thai girl.
What follows leads to the disintegration of a family inheritance, and enormous emotional pain.
As for Julia, our concert pianist heroine, she is about to find her own life shattered once more - but then rebuilt in an astonishing way. On the horizon for her is new love, the rediscovery of an amazing inheritance, and an awful twist in her story as she finds out what really happened in the car crash that killed her husband and son.
Judy says this is a saga; and it certainly is, with more twists and turns, more shocking family secrets exposed, than I can remember reading. Maybe the Forsyte Saga comes to mind; this book certainly covers almost as much ground in fewer pages.
Lucinda Riley meets Richard and Judy
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Richard and Judy's posts
05.07.2013 - Richard on his new novel Some Day I’ll Find You
Read the prologue and find out more about the twists and turns of Richard's debut novel here Read more
07.06.2011 - Tide Clocks and New Reads
Richard gives us a blog on his Have I Got News For You apperance and the joy of tide clocks! Read more
01.04.2011 - Eloise
For those of you wondering just what Judy has been up to the past few months, all can be revealed! Read more
22.03.2011 - New books to come and Dancing on Ice...
Richard's latest on the upcoming list of books being selected for the Summer season and Chloe's final skate on Sunday Read more
... Richard blogs on another busy week. Read more