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I know I've just read a good book when I can't wait to share it with my friends.
The publisher's summary makes it seem like a typically-formulaic romance novel. IT IS NOT. For one thing, it's pretty clean. No bodice-ripping scenes involved, but there is some "colorful dialog" just to keep things "realistic". Normally, I don't dig romance novels, but my daughter raved about it, so I gave it a listen. It is the first book by Natasha Solomons that I have listened to, but it won't be the last. She is such a gifted writer. Her style is descriptive without being verbose which, as I'm sure any writer knows, can be a challenge. I would compare her writing to that of Susanna Kearsley because it has that same overall sense of elegant melancholy. She made me feel such compassion for Elise, who just didn't fit in anywhere. I was able to sense her loneliness and profound loss without pitying her. This is one of those books that I wanted to stretch on into eternity. The characters are well-developed, but not overly so. The author did her job well, leaving me wanting more.
Now, about the narrator: she usually grates on my nerves. I forgot that I had promised myself never to listen to anything she narrates ever again, but I decided that I wasn't going to let her ruin the book for me. To give credit where it is due, she didn't do a bad job with this book, aside from not voicing men very well (it IS difficult for a woman to read masculine dialog). In fact, there are some scenes that just would not have had the proper pathos had I just read the book. The scene where Elise first meets Kit (while she's trying to expres her frustration by shouting at the sea, using all of the English swear words she knows) would not have been nearly as funny either if I hadn't listened to the audiobook.
Without giving away any of the plotlines, I'd like to add that you should have a box of tissues handy before you listen. I wish someone would have warned me ahead of time.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
I didn’t realize I even liked this book until I got to the end and found myself sobbing in the car on the way to work. Clearly it affected me. So that’s the good news. If you listen to this I think you will care for the characters, possibly even despite yourself. But I picked this up because it had been billed to me as “an ode to the old English country house” and “for Downton Abbey addicts.” But I’m not sure it was either of these things. Despite the title, the house didn’t feel like the central character. (Perhaps the visual evocation would have been stronger had I been reading?) But I felt it was the onslaught of history - awful, looming, threatening, and oversees – that served as the main influence in this book. It was the background horror of the Holocaust that brought me to tears.
This novel is about a young Jewish woman from “the smart set” in Vienna who takes a position as a parlour maid in an English House in 1938. While she is sheltered from the actualities of life back in Vienna - the silence created by the slowing postal system, the delayed appearance of her parents, the ineffectiveness of money sent to literally pay their ransom out of Austria, these things make up the negative space that consumes this novel. But the central love stories that take up the day to day at Tyneford, the fussy butler and particular housekeeper, even the awful society visitors – they don’t stand a chance against the things that you aren’t seeing and hearing. I guess that’s why it felt like a vacuum to me - and not an entirely satisfying one.
29 of 32 people found this review helpful