Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Review: Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan

Book cover: Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan
I have mixed feelings about Fiercombe Manor. It's a good thing the writing is excellent, because it serves to keep you in this hefty tome where almost nothing happens.

The first perspective is of Alice, who in 1933 is banished from London to Fiercombe Manor because she has managed to get pregnant by her lover, a married man. Mrs. Jelphs, the housekeeper of this isolated, run down, lonely home is an old friend of Alice's mother.

While she is there exploring the old home and grounds, Alice becomes interested in its history. In particular the story of Elizabeth, who was the lady of the house thirty years earlier. Alice finds a secret diary that Elizabeth wrote. Neither Mrs. Jelphs or  the old gardener seems to want to talk about the past at all. But Tom, the son of the owner, returns to Fiercombe and befriends Alice and gives her bits and pieces of the estate's sordid history.

We get Elizabeth's perspective also. She is also pregnant, and is very stressed about her condition for several reasons. She has given birth to a daughter, which to her husband isn't worth much. He longs for a male heir. And, after that birth, she became emotionally unstable and well...I won't tell you what happened. Also, she has had some miscarriages.

I felt a bit confused at times because Alice reads some things about Elizabeth in the diary, but Elizabeth tells the reader much more, so you have to keep track of what Alice doesn't know, that you as a reader do.

Fiercombe Manor is all about atmosphere. I expected more of a ghost story, but it really isn't that at all. Because the descriptions of the setting and people are so vivid I stuck with Fiercombe Manor. But I didn't find the revelations to be all that dramatic, or even interesting. I wouldn't say I predicted everything, but more like it didn't surprise me. I felt for the characters. The fears of Elizabeth were palpable. And the restlessness and inquisitiveness of Alice were the only thing that kept the story moving. The ending was entirely satisfying, which also helped my attitude about Fiercombe Manor.

I felt Riordan's writing is a bit like Sarah Waters, but I feel Waters' books have more drama and surprises. She's very descriptive but there's also a plot that moves forward at an acceptable pace. That's what I thought was missing from Firecombe Manor. More excitement and drama.

This is an adult book that would only appeal to the most discriminating teen reader. I would recommend Sarah Waters' books before this one (although still with reservations.)

Published by Harper, February 17, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 3/5

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1 comment:

  1. Bit disappointed it didn't completely win you over, but I'm glad you liked some parts of it :)

    Benish | Feminist Reflections


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