The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley
Synopsis from publisher:
Spanning from the 1930s to the present day, from the Wharton Park estate in England to Thailand, this sweeping novel tells the tale of a concert pianist and the aristocratic Crawford family, whose shocking secrets are revealed, leading to devastating consequences.
As a child, concert pianist Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park, the grand estate where her grandfather tended exotic orchids. Years later, while struggling with overwhelming grief over the death of her husband and young child, she returns to this tranquil place. There she reunites with Kit Crawford, heir to the estate and her possible salvation.
When they discover an old diary, Julia seeks out her grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed the estate. Their search takes them back to the 1940s when Harry, a former heir to Wharton Park, married his young society bride, Olivia, on the eve of World War II. When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt for generations to come.
You know when you are reading a book and you start putting events together, and a possible scenario comes to mind, and you think, "No way. That's W A A A Y too obvious. The author can't possibly be taking us there", and then 20 pages later that's exactly where you are? This book did that 3 times. Three. Times.
I could really end my thoughts right there, and not feel too bad about this post, but since I did actually finish the book, there were obviously some redeeming aspects to it. I found Julia to be a sympathetic heroine, and many of the passages written in first person from her point of view were quite lovely. (I did not, in contrast, find myself able to feel much sorry for Olivia at all, which is probably another serious issue - if I find myself irritated with the secondary protagonist most of the time she is on stage, it probably doesn't bode well. But we are looking for redeeming aspects, right......) I also very much enjoyed Elsie and Bill - their relationship was probably the strongest in the whole novel.
I found myself very interested in the sections about Harry in the Pacific theater during and just after WWII, but unfortunately they were brief, and quickly overtaken by the secondary love story. I would have loved for those experiences to have been given more prominence, especially because the author indicated that they had much deeper significance with the discovery of a diary earlier in the novel. I also felt at times that the writing itself could have been better - it seemed like there were a few times when a word choice or phrase were out of place, or odd, and another could have served better.
Really, this was a fine story, but it felt like it could have been more. I was frustrated that the author seemed to take the obvious road on several occasions, when it felt like she could have made the novel so much deeper with just a little more effort. I felt like the bones of the story were good, but the execution let me down. I would still be open to reading more from this author, in the hope that her consequent works show the growth that would make her an excellent writer.
Source: review copy from publisher via Netgalley - thank you!
MPAA rating: PG-13 for adult situations
My rating: 5/10