This incredible debut historical novel—in the tradition of Beatriz Williams and Jennifer Robson—tells the fascinating story of a young mother who flees her home on the rocky cliffs of Cornwall and the daughter who finds her way back, seeking answers.
Cornwall, 1940. Back in England after the harrowing evacuation at Dunkirk, WWII Red Cross nurse Anna Trenowyth is shocked to learn her adoptive parents Graham and Prue Handley have been killed in an air raid. She desperately needs their advice as she’s been assigned to the military hospital that has set up camp inside her biological mother’s childhood home—Nanreath Hall. Anna was just six-years-old when her mother, Lady Katherine Trenowyth, died. All she has left are vague memories that tease her with clues she can’t unravel. Anna’s assignment to Nanreath Hall could be the chance for her to finally become acquainted with the family she’s never known—and to unbury the truth and secrets surrounding her past.
Cornwall, 1913. In the luxury of pre-WWI England, Lady Katherine Trenowyth is expected to do nothing more than make a smart marriage and have a respectable life. When Simon Halliday, a bohemian painter, enters her world, Katherine begins to question the future that was so carefully laid out for her. Her choices begin to lead her away from the stability of her home and family toward a wild existence of life, art, and love. But as everything begins to fall apart, Katherine finds herself destitute and alone.
As Anna is drawn into her newfound family’s lives and their tangled loyalties, she discovers herself at the center of old heartbreaks and unbearable tragedies, leaving her to decide if the secrets of the past are too dangerous to unearth…and if the family she’s discovered is one she can keep.
story is ultimately a search for self-identity while honoring the influences from your own life
Focusing on the life of Anna, she’s back in England after the horrors of the evacuation of Dunkirk. I loved Anna’s character – so determined and self-assured, with a need to ‘do her part’ in the war effort, she’s made great sacrifices to serve. Adopted as a child, she discovers that her adoptive parents have been killed in the blitz. If that weren’t enough change for Anna with all of her other worries and duties, she’s been assigned to work at a military hospital at the grounds of her birth family’s home in Cornwall, Nanreath Hall.
Far from being a shrinking violet, Anna takes the chance to answer some of the long-standing questions she has and reconcile them with some nebulous memories. Meeting her birth family, gaining answers to questions about her own history, and finding a wealth of secrets, tragedies and loves unrequited.
A wonderfully paced and drawn story brings the tale of Anna’s search and reconnection to her birth family with the then shame and sorrows of her young and daring birth mother. Born to a life of luxury while society is changing and rearranging as the murmurs of a war are on the horizon, Lady Katherine Trenowyth is meant to marry well and continue on in a respectable fashion. She, not unlike her daughter, takes steps into the future that are both daring and uncertain. An affair with a bohemian painter brought her away from her normal and into a life that was more freeform, centered around art, joy and the moment.
What Anna discovers in her time at Nanreath is secrets upon secrets, many seem to shore the foundations and bedrock of her birth family. One never feels that Anna is determined to undermine or injure this family she is so intricately tied to, but their secrets often stalemate her own search for her identity and place in the world beyond that of nurse and woman. With lovely prose that never fails to evoke the emotional tumult and choices facing Anna, many harkening to those of her birth mother a generation earlier. Wonderfully complex yet undeniably easy to relate to, this story is ultimately a search for self-identity while honoring the influences from your own life and those that came before.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Really good story and well written
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was easy to read and quite engrossing. The plot was extremely interesting.