Set in the 1950’s in Cornwall, this book is the story of three generations of a Polish family who buy a house in hopes of making it turn a profit. There’s the stylish but crotchety grandmother, the mother starting over after a bad break up, and the 5 year old daughter. In order to make the place a going concern, they have to renovate and also contend with the mysterious past of the building and the local superstition about it. But is it just a superstition? Or might it be magic?
Jane Johnson also wrote The Sea Gate, which I reviewed and while it had some things that I liked, I didn’t love that book. This one I didn’t like. I wanted to. I love the idea of a few generations of women living together, and the Cornwall setting, an old crumbling house with secrets, and a hint of magic. It’s a great idea.
I think if you just like the sound of this one, maybe give it a try and make up your own mind. I have a pet hate with historical fiction that has a main character who is a thoroughly modern woman, with no attitudes from the time period, and who is kind of perfect. No flaws, other than being pretty and not knowing it of course. I think it sends the message that if we lived then, we would somehow have known better, done better, and that’s a bit too easy for my taste. It also means that there’s not a lot of ways our characters can learn and grow. I also really want to feel the time period and the place when I read books of this genre, and I really didn’t get that from this book. It was like I was reading a book set in the present.
Combined with the fact that I didn’t warm to any of the characters and the whole thing felt a bit slow and uneven, and I just didn’t enjoy this one. I think I’ll steer clear of this author from now on, because this isn’t my kind of fiction, but I think that there are people who will enjoy this and enjoy the escape into it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Read It If: this one is more about the romantic fantasy of the 50’s, magic, and an old house in Cornwall, than more traditional historical fiction. It’s not about accuracy and a dose of real history with your fiction.
With big thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for the ARC of this book for review.