Tuesday 24 December 2013

The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

Spanning four generations, The Midnight Rose sweeps from the glittering palaces of the great maharajas of India to the majestic stately homes of England, following the extraordinary life of a girl, Anahita Chavan, from 1911 to the present day . . . 
In the heyday of the British Raj, eleven-year-old Anahita, from a noble but impoverished family, forms a lifelong friendship with the headstrong Princess Indira, the privileged daughter of rich Indian royalty. Becoming the princess’s official companion, Anahita accompanies her friend to England just before the outbreak of the Great War. There, she meets the young Donald Astbury – reluctant heir to the magnificent, remote Astbury Estate – and his scheming mother. 
Eighty years later, Rebecca Bradley, a young American film star, has the world at her feet. But when her turbulent relationship with her equally famous boyfriend takes an unexpected turn, she’s relieved that her latest role, playing a 1920s debutante, will take her away from the glare of publicity to the wilds of Dartmoor in England. Shortly after filming begins at the now-crumbling Astbury Hall, Ari Malik, Anahita’s great-grandson, arrives unexpectedly, on a quest for his family’s past. What he and Rebecca discover begins to unravel the dark secrets that haunt the Astbury dynasty . . .

The Midnight Rose is Lucinda Riley's fourth novel and will be published in the UK by Pan MacMillan in January 2014.   I've read and enjoyed all of her previous books - take a look at my review for The Light Behind The Window and  The Girl On The Cliff

This is a huge story, not just in length but in the quality of the writing, the detail and the meticulous research that has gone into its creation.  A saga that spans the decades and spreads across continents, it is dramatic and compelling and swept me off to another era.

The Midnight Rose is Anahita's story, and begins in India in 1911.   Anahita (Anni) comes from a family whose wealth has been lost over the years, brought up by parents who allowed her to believe in herself and her skills, she becomes the companion of Princess Indira.   Indira is a flighty girl, spoilt but warm hearted and the two girls become the best of friends.  When the girls are sent to England, Anni realised that it is here that she can gain a proper education, and maybe achieve something that wouldn't be possible back in India.  It is also the place that she meets Donald Astbury, the man who will shape her whole future.

The story is told as a dual-time narrative, and the reader is soon transported to modern-day Astbury estate. No longer the venue for parties and dinners, the house is now owned by the present Lord Anthony who lives alone with just his housekeeper for company.  Financial worries have meant that the estate has been hired out as a location for a Hollywood film starring the beautiful, but unhappy Rebecca Bradley.

When Anni's great-grandson Ari arrives at Astbury to try and learn more about his ancestors, he and Rebecca stumble upon evidence that the things that Anni claimed in her letter to Ari may well have been true.

This is a truly captivating story spanning continents and decades.  The descriptions of life in the royal palaces of India during the time of English rule are stunning, and the way of life for the English aristocracy is cleverly compared and contrasted, showing that in fact, although miles apart, there were many similarities in how they lived.   Exotic, vibrant, colourful India and the opulence and grandeur of the Royal family contrast with the sometimes staid and stuffy gentle elegance of the English countryside.

Anni is a complex character, seemingly compliant, kind and caring - yet with a steely determination to protect those who are dearest to her, whilst being prepared to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of others.

The modern-day story unfolds quite slowly, as Rebecca and Ari learn a little bit more about Anni and her journey to Astbury, the full horror of her treatment from Donald's mother, Lady Maud Astbury becomes clear.  Lady Maud was a woman who was determined that nothing would stand in her way, determined that the Astburys would continue to live on the estate for generations to come, her hard-hearted actions shaped the whole future for many years.

A story of love, courage, consequences, family relationships and mystery. The attention to detail and the perfect parallel timing of this novel makes it a joy to read.

My thanks to the author and publisher Pan MacMillan, who arranged for my proof copy to be sent for review.

Lucinda Riley was born in Ireland and wrote her first book aged 24.
Her novel Hothouse Flower was selected for the UK's Richard and Judy Book Club in 2011 and went on to sell over 2 million copies worldwide and become a New York Times bestseller.
Lucinda's next novel, The Girl on the Cliff, also made it onto the New York Times bestseller list, in its first week, and her latest book The Light Behind the Window was a number one bestsellr on the German chart.
Lucinda's books are translated into 22 languages and published in 36 countries. She lives with her husband and four children on the North Norfolk coast in England and in the South of France.

More information about Lucinda Riley and her books can be found at www.lucindariley.com, on Facebook and on Twitter

1 comment:

  1. Lovely review as always Anne. I have this to be read and am looking forward to it even more now.