Fans of Kate Morton will surely love this book. As with her previous novels, she has woven a truly compelling tale overflowing with mysterious themes which capture the reader’s interest. Reality and unreality conjoin like twin shadows, often forcing the reader to question what is feigned and what is bona fide, what is the result of madness and what is rational, who is sane and who is not. It was sometimes hard to separate fact from fancy.
This is the story of a family scarred by the horrors of war, unrequited love, heartbreak, scandals, secrets and madness. Ruled by a patriarch determined to protect his ancestral castle, he exerts enormous control over his descendants, even from beyond the grave.
The Blythe offspring have been cloistered for most of their lives within the confines of the castle. Twins, Persephone and Seraphina, and a younger sibling, Juniper, progeny of two different mothers, inhabit a world often created by their own imagination, hence sometimes intersecting with the real world in disharmony. Their lives and loves are hidden within the confines of the castle’s stone walls.
Meredith Baker is a victim of wartime displacement. At age 14, she is moved with many children, to the countryside, where they will live with host families because their parents fear it is too dangerous for them to remain in London. Separated from her siblings, she is sent to live with the Blythe children and their father, Raymond, a famous author. At Milderhurst Castle she discovers her true desires and blossoms.
The story begins years later. Meredith is married and in her 65th year. Stoic and secretive, she has never revealed her castle experience to her daughter, and when a letter from the past, from that time of her life, unexpectedly arrives so many years later, she opens up a sliver of light into her hidden background because of the profound reaction the letter causes to her state of mind.
The past and present merge as the story unfolds and is developed by Meredith’s daughter, Edith, who discovers the actual Milderhurst castle when she gets lost returning from a business trip. The sisters still live there in its state of decay and through her exploration and research, the walls of the castle reveal their mysteries, exposing the tragedies residing there and illuminating the history of the family that lived there.
The characters are wonderfully drawn and images of them are sharp and clear. It is easy to identify with the emotions they experience. Although the first half of this rather lengthy 650+ page book doesn’t move that quickly, the second half takes off, and the pages fly. It was hard to put it down as I was completely engaged in the effort to discover how the story would resolve and I was not disappointed. My interest was captured and fulfilled as the secrets were revealed.