Okay, now for that review:
When I looked at the back cover of Tyringham Park and saw a blurb that described it as "an Irish Downton Abbey," I was convinced it would be just my cup of tea. This novel about the secret goings-on and inner workings of a grand Irish estate, and the relationships between the wealthy landowners who inhabit it and the people who serve them, is a well-written page-turner. It got to the point where I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next and I simply couldn't put it down. McLoughlin really knows how to keep the reader's attention, that's for sure.
Tyringham Park has a Gothic feel to it that is reminiscent of the works of Daphne du Maurier or Victoria Holt. For me, that means I get reeled in and my heart beats a bit faster with every turn of the page; but it also means that it's all a little too dark for my taste. If I had my druthers, every work of fiction would feature at least one main character who's a lovable hero or heroine with a heart of gold and it would end happily. This book isn't like that at all. There's a lot of treachery and evildoing, a lot of angst. I thought that at least Manus, the kind-hearted stable manager, would have a squeaky clean past; but he has his secrets, too.
The story begins during the WWI years and centers around the mysterious disappearance of the toddler daughter of Lord and Lady Blackshaw, whose loveless marriage has produced two daughters. Little Victoria is the more beautiful of the two, and she is the clear favorite of her mother as well as most of the staff. The book follows her plain older sister Charlotte, whose life is forever haunted by that one heartbreaking childhood incident. Love-starved and mistreated, Charlotte seems destined to live a tragically lonely existence.
It's hard to describe how many twists and turns are packed into the plot of this ambitious novel-- you name it, you'll find it: passionate inter- and intra-class trysts (although the reader is spared any voyeuristic details), family secrets, skeletons in closets, jealousies and lies, kidnappings, unrequited loves, mental illnesses...I could go on and on. You'll travel from Ireland to Australia and then back to Ireland again. And then you'll finally get to the ending, hoping for a satisfying conclusion. But there are some pretty significant loose ends that don't get tied up and you'll be left hanging. (I went on the author's website to see if there's a sequel planned, and there definitely is.)
I struggled between 3 stars and 4 for this book (out of 5), because although the writing is very articulate and I couldn't put it down, I didn't always enjoy the experience of getting into the heads of its cruel and scheming characters. It's a bit depressing, actually! So I decided to give it 3. But if you're a huge fan of the Gothic romance novel, you might rate it higher.
I know this review makes it sound as if there were no morally admirable characters whatsoever in this book, but that's not completely true. There is a character named Miss East who will remind Downton fans of the estimable Mrs. Hughes; and there are several other kind-hearted folks. So the book isn't unrelentingly gloomy--but still, much too gloomy for me.
Also, I mentioned I was reading The Book Thief in a previous WWRW post, and that a review would be forthcoming. I haven't been able to put together much for that literary masterpiece (I'm too overwhelmed!), but I did post a few words about it over at Goodreads, if you're interested.
Jessica's for more book talk.