I am not much of a reader of Historical fiction, especially mysteries, so this book is very much out of my comfort zone. But my friend Ana was going to start it and I decided buddy reading it with with her would be a great experience and good way to try the genre. However, I really have very mixed feelings about this one, so be prepared for an incoherent mess of a review.
This is my first Kate Morton book, so I had no idea what I was getting into, but it was definitely a surprise. The author has a magical way with words – the writing is beautiful, evocative and haunting, the imagery so vivid that I really could visualize it. The story is centred mostly around the English countryside, especially Birchwood Manor, and the setting is truly brought to life. We also get to see the passage of time through the condition of the manor itself and I think that was brilliantly done. However, it’s also the same writing that I had my main gripe with. It’s too descriptive (which is not my thing at all) and that felt quite boring after a while and I skim read a lot towards the end. But that’s probably just my issue and not the book.
I’m usually a fan of multiple timelines and POVs but here it was all a bit too much. The timelines shift back and forth between 1860-70s, WWI, WWII and the present day and it did get tough to keep track of what time period we were in. There are also too many narrators and characters. Just when I thought I was getting one character better, their storyline would stop abruptly and they wouldn’t show up again for a long time. This really prevented me from getting invested in anyone.
The one prescient narrator who is the main source of the mystery confused me a lot in the beginning but I got used to it as the book went on. Our present day narrator Elodie was definitely one I didn’t like at all – she just seemed so disinterested in her own wedding and not quite prudent about the protocols at her work, it ruined my perception about her. And then she uses the mystery as an excuse to not deal with her problems. Despite the many characters, most of their arcs are resolved towards the end, but not all. The reveal of the mystery was very very surprising and unexpected, but also slightly anticlimactic after spending almost 500 pages trying to figure it out. We also never get any character development for Elodie which was disappointing.
All in all, I have to say that I was both pleasantly surprised and bored while reading this book. I obviously didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to, but that’s on me. If you are a Kate Morton fan, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it better than I did.