1925. The war is over and a new generation is coming of age, keen to put the trauma of the previous one behind them.
Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure; to parties and drinking and staying just the right side of scandal. Lawrence Weston is a struggling artist, desperate to escape the poverty of his upbringing and make something of himself. When their worlds collide one summer night, neither can resist the thrill of the forbidden, the lure of a love affair that they know cannot possibly last.
But there is a dark side to pleasure and a price to be paid for breaking the rules. By the end of that summer everything has changed.
A decade later, nine year old Alice is staying at Blackwood Hall with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother’s letters to discover the secrets of the past, the truth about the present, and hope for the future.
Bach’s Goldberg Variations poured from the gramophone, the sound faded and scratched but still searingly sweet. She rolled onto her back and closed her eyes, watching colours burst in the darkness behind her closed lids. It was like being permanently in that glorious, fleeting state at the start of the evening – the glittering hour – when the first swiftly downed cocktail drove away the demons; when her blood was warm and her limbs loose and everything shimmered with promise.
This captivating book takes us to the world of “the bright young things,” the privileged young men and women who had been too young to participate in the First World War and had no idea what the future might hold. Selena Lennox bottles up her grief at the death of her brother and rushes headlong into a hedonistic world of pleasure with her friends. But when she meets Lawrence Weston, an artist from a different background her life changes for ever. Can she ignore the demands of her parents to accept a sensible marriage proposal and run away to a life of love and poverty with Lawrence?
But this is also the story of a lonely little girl called Alice sent to live in Blackwood Park, a large cold manor house in the country, while her parents are away in Burma. With only one friend amongst the servants and a grandmother who seems to resent her, Alice waits anxiously for letters from her beloved mother. These set her on a treasure hunt to discover something about her mother’s life when she lived in Blackwood. Aspects of this part of the novel remind me of The Secret Garden and later, Alice goes to stay with a family in London who could come from one of the books of Noel Streatfield.
One of the most interesting aspects is the role of women in the mid-20th century. Whether servant, wife or daughter, their views are considered trivial or confused, their choices are severely limited, but a few break out and find their own life even if that is because of the understanding of a thoughtful man. The story is carefully plotted to reveal secrets that are not at first apparent. The prose flows beautifully and characters let you into their psyche. It is a book of joy and deep sorrow and the most moving one I have read for some time. Highly recommended.
The Glittering Hour can be found on Amazon UK
My review of The Lost Letters by Iona Grey
Iona Grey has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters.