The Favour by Laura Vaughan
|The Favour by Laura Vaughan|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Ada Howell, rejected by Oxford takes the grand tour, reworked for a modern generation. Will she make the life-long friends she's been promised - or will she make a dreadful mistake? Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: March 2021|
|External links: Author's website|
The rejection by Oxford came as a bit of a shock to Ada Howell: she was, after all, the daughter of the renowned author, Anthony Howell, who'd been to this college. Well, she wasn't actually Howell's daughter: he'd married her mother after her birth and had then adopted her, so she was 'chosen' rather than just 'made', which was better really. And whilst we're being honest, we might as well admit that 'renowned author' might be stretching the truth a little: his books degenerated into self-published poetry which Ada couldn't understand. Still, Ada had felt entitled and this was why her godmother's offer had come at such a brilliant time.
Delilah Grant, her father's last-remaining friend as well as her godmother, offered her the chance of going to Italy on a two-month trip to study art history. Delilah would fund most of the trip but Ada would have to come up with some of the funds herself. It felt like such a turn-around. Her mother had sold the family home, Garreg Las, in Wales, after her father's death and bought a three-bed Edwardian terrace house in Brockley. It didn't have the same cachet as the early-Regency mansion. Now she had the opportunity to mix with the sort of people she should be mixing with.
It's a little unfortunate that when she arrives in Venice she joins a group where there are established friendships and relationships. She's always going to be the odd one out, or, rather, one of the two odd ones out. Mallory Kaplan is American and she's not completely attuned to how the British upper classes operate. She doesn't understand the stiff upper lip and it's not long before she's seen as a bit of a nuisance. Still, they're all dilettanti now and the brochure had promised that they'd be making friends and connections for life. Ada doesn't actually lie about her past, but she relies heavily on the nostalgia of Garreg Las, the pain of its loss and how much her father meant to her. She just has to ensure that she's needed, welcomed in, by this group.
Petra Deane was a child actor and has the confidence to go with it. She's in an on-off relationship with Lorcan Holt, who's the half-sister of Anabelle Gilani (who seems to be the only person, apart from Ada, who's on a budget). She's also in a relationship with ones of the 'cicerones', Dr Nathan Harper, whose wife, Clemency, hasn't accompanied the group. Lorcan is a school friend of Willa Murray and he's also the cousin of Nate Harper. And that's just a selection of the dilettanti on the tour.
Complicated, isn't it? Author Laura Vaughan does a brilliant job of bringing the individual characters out of what could have been an amorphous mass. Apart from Ada, they're all privileged, assured of their place in the world. How is Ada going to fit in? Well, she does a favour...
The 'tour' begins in Venice, moves to Florence and then to Rome and on the way we're given judicious looks at the art and architecture - just enough to what your appetite but not so much that the story is overwhelmed. It's more than forty years since I did the same trip (with a very-much-reduced time scale, I hasten to add) and it brought back some good memories.
The plot is exceptional: I finished the book in less than twenty-four hours because I simply had to find out what happened and the denouement had me gasping - I really didn't see it coming. I'm looking forward to seeing what Vaughan writes next and I'd like to thank the publishers for making a copy available to the Bookbag.
If you'd like to do your own grand tour, we can recommend 101 Places in Italy : A Private Grand Tour by Francis Russell.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Favour by Laura Vaughan at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
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