Goodbye Piccadilly by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
|Goodbye Piccadilly by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Number one in a series following the Hunter family ad those they love, tolerate and/or detest through World War I. This novel, finishing at Christmas 1914, is a slow burning comfort read for saga lovers everywhere.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: June 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
It's July 1914 and the world is becoming unsettled. There's fierce unrest brewing in Ireland and Sarajevo is being put on the map for all the wrong reasons. Back in England life is continuing as usual – at the moment. Viscount Dene, Charles Wroughton wants to marry for love rather than materialism. Laura Hunter is fighting for women's suffrage. As for Beattie Cazalet, her main worry is the rumour concerning the manner in which her servant Ethel is carrying on in public. All fears are about to deepen and worries put in sharp relief though: war is coming and a war like none the world has fought before.
Prolific English author Cynthia Harrod-Eagles has made a name for herself in romantic and historical fiction since her first book was published in 1972. In fact prolific seems an understatement as Cynthia has forged an award winning career via more than 70 novels, most notably her Morland series which was planned to run for four books and to date has resulted in 35. No disrespect to Cynthia, but can someone who has written that much still maintain a standard? In this case, most definitely!
I must admit to slight worries at the beginning of the story. We may be excused for thinking there may be stereotypes as Cynthia introduces us to the Hunters, their friends, servants and co-habitants of the cosy village of Northcote.
Indeed, among the characters carefully selected to span lower, middle and upper classes, we have an elderly gardener who has a dropping-letter-diction, a maid who's rather generous with her favours, a Viscount who falls in love below his station and sundry other Edwardian village types thrown at us at a cracking rate. It appears as though it may become predictable, even if we can remember everyone. BUT something happens about 100 pages in.
I can't put my finger on what changes, just the effect it had: I not only started to remember who's who without the family tree at the beginning, I became absorbed in their world. I even became absorbed in the sub-plot of Sadie's horses and I hate horses! (I was trampled by one 30 years ago and it's tended to colour my equine judgement till now.)
Ok we can all guess what fate may eventually befall Ethel in a later volume while she strings along butcher and baker but the lass has more than two dimensions. As her background is revealed we realise she has every reason to search for love, even though she seems to be misguided in both location and manner of search.
Viscount's brother Rupert is the baddie of the piece (out-nastying the Germans at the moment!) or perhaps he's a man protecting his family's legacy? In either case he makes an excellent nemesis for banker's daughter Diana and we finish the book feeling we haven't seen the last of him.
The novel goes as far as that first Christmas by which everyone thought the war would be over, leaving Cynthia opportune moments to share her careful research. For instance, I'd never heard about Lord Kitchener's own predictions regarding duration before. (I won't spoil it if you haven't either.)
Cynthia also demonstrates that the past is another country as the rector's wife strongly suggests to Beattie Hunter that she sacks poor Ethel due to that public kiss. Yes, speaking as a clergy wife, I can confirm that times have changed big time!
Ok, this isn't a novel that will win the Mann Booker (I feel that Cynthia may be as shocked as the rest of us if it did!) but it has a definite place in our hist-fict-saga landscape. This is literary treacle sponge and custard: it may not be haute cuisine, but delicious and sometimes just what we really fancy. War at Home Book 2? I'm ready, dish it up!
(Thank you, Sphere for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals, why not try We That Are Left by Juliet Greenwood also about the effect of WWI on a community. We also recommend Bleakly Hall by Elaine di Rollo which jumps on a bit showing a changed post-war England.
You can read more book reviews or buy Goodbye Piccadilly by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Goodbye Piccadilly by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.