Return to Fourwinds by Elisabeth Gifford

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Return to Fourwinds by Elisabeth Gifford

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A family drama reliant on good writing and secrets; we may guess most of the secrets pre-reveal but the writing is so good I personally didn't mind a bit.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Corvus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1782391142

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Two families gather at Fourwinds for the wedding of Nicky and Sarah. Alice and Ralph are as proud of their son as Patricia and Peter are of their daughter. However there are secrets festering behind the celebratory facades and there's nothing like pre-wedding jitters to bring such things bubbling to the surface.

Author Elisabeth Gifford loves working with secrets. She enthralled us with Secrets of the Sea House (or just The Sea House if you're in the US) and now she's reprised the tantalising mixture of past psychological demons and historical revelation in this gripping family drama.

The only slight niggle for me is that from the beginning we're teased along towards various secrets that individuals in the family have kept for, sometimes, decades. The teasing his highly effective, making this a real page-turner, but when we get to the secrets most of them engender a moment of That it? as we've either guessed or they're a bit of an anti-climax. I hope the use of the word 'niggle' doesn't put anyone off though; secrets aside, this is a wonderful, well-written story that I happily inhaled during a single sitting.

For a start the characters are a wonderfully mixed bag. Their secrets may not form surprises but their pasts certainly provide twists as we discover that three of the adults have met before in different circumstances. As we go back and forth in time, visiting childhoods that form the adults we see before us we not only engage but empathise hugely. I dare anyone to read about boy Peter and child Ralph without wanting to hug them and make it all better. As for teenage Alice, I so wanted to shake her but that's not down to the writing, that's because she's a fully fleshed out product of her upbringing.

That's one of the great things about Elisabeth's writing: she successfully extrapolates, linking behaviour with past events. I do love an author who understands psychology enough to make their story more authentic and Elisabeth is such an author.

Historically this time we flit back and forth to pre-war Britain, peri-war Britain and Spain before, during and after the Spanish Civil War. The wedding may be present day, but again Elisabeth evokes bygone eras from viewpoints we may not have thought about, especially young Ralph in Spain. Because he's so young at the time, we aren't enveloped by a soldier's impression but that of a child, not really understanding what's going on before he's whisked away to (what in his child's mind) are almost greater horrors.

Ralph and Peter are the compelling centre pieces for me. Indeed, that seems to be the key to it. Although it's ostensibly about a wedding, that is almost a sub-plot or vehicle. In fact my imagination side-lined the young nuptial couple as the problems of Peter and Ralph became more all-encompassing. (Sarah and Nicky do create a good, romantic distraction though – and I could write about Sarah echoing someone else, but that would lead to spoilers!)

This is a novel about how the lives and events we thought were buried come back to haunt us as we age and how we react when they do. Elisabeth has captured that and managed to populate it with people who will haunt us just as effectively. This is becoming a rather modus operandae for Ms Gifford and long may it continue.

(Thank you so much Corvus for providing us with a copy to review.)

Further Reading: If this appeals, you'll kick yourself if you don't also read Secrets of the Sea House.

Buy Return to Fourwinds by Elisabeth Gifford at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Return to Fourwinds by Elisabeth Gifford at

Buy Return to Fourwinds by Elisabeth Gifford at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Return to Fourwinds by Elisabeth Gifford at


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