Title: The Peacock Summer
Author: Hannah Richell
Published: June 26th 2018
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Two summers, decades apart. Two women whose lives are forever entwined. And a house that holds the secrets that could free them both.
At twenty-six, Lillian feels ancient and exhausted. Her marriage to Charles Oberon has not turned out the way she thought it would. To her it seems she is just another beautiful object captured within the walls of Cloudesley, her husband’s Chilterns manor house. But, with a young step-son and a sister to care for, Lillian accepts there is no way out for her. Then Charles makes an arrangement with an enigmatic artist visiting their home and her world is turned on its head.
Maggie Oberon ran from the hurt and resentment she caused. Half a world away, in Australia, it was easier to forget, to pretend she didn’t care. But when her grandmother, Lillian, falls ill she must head back to Cloudesley. Forced to face her past, she will learn that all she thought was real, all that she held so close, was never as it seemed.
Graceful. This is the perfect word to describe Hannah Richell’s latest and third release, The Peacock Summer. The writing is celestial, the characters defining and the narrative irresistible. It is all set to a stirring stage, a crumbling old manor house on an English estate. The Peacock Summer is a tale that does not give up its secrets so easily, but when they are revealed, readers will bask in the glory of the love, passion, heartbreak and tragedy that befalls the players of The Peacock Summer. Personally, this is my favourite type of novel and this one is a beauty.
Two summers, decades apart defines the enmeshed lives of two women who are both linked to a manor with long held secrets to expose. In the past, Lillian feels frustrated by her marriage to Charles. Her marriage is not what she expected, in fact, Lillian often feels like a pawn, Charles can do and say what he likes with Lillian. Lillian knows she has no form of escape from her unhappy marriage, there are expectations and obligations she must adhere to. However, Lillian’s world is forever changed when Charles commissions a piece of art to be produced in his grand home of Cloudesley. The artist charged with the task has a significant impact on Lillian’s life. Years down the track Lillian’s granddaughter Maggie makes a return visit to Cloudesley, following the news that her grandmother has fallen gravely ill. It is a time of great awakening for Maggie, as she realises that in returning to Cloudesley and attending to her grandmother’s affairs, she must settle a bevy of secrets from the past.
The Peacock Summer hails the return of Hannah Richell. Richell’s much anticipated third novel is polished, dainty and refined. The embossed gold title, along with the front, back and inside cover art is so visually pleasing. These cover aesthetics set the scene for the magnificent tale to come, where art and peacocks do feature within this involving story, along with a whole host of other events.
Richell is a master of the two-fold style of narrative. I felt nothing but comfort in the arms of Richell’s writing and her narrative approach. Richell achieves the perfect equilibrium in terms of the presentation of her past (mid 1950’s) and present day narratives. Both were a joy to read, the pages seemed to float away. I appreciated that this was a modern day style fiction tale, with one of the storylines based in the 1950’s, an era from our not too distant past.
Characterisation is clearly one of Richell’s many talents. I loved her approach to all the characters in this novel. There are some endearing protagonists in The Peacock Summer, along with some disheartening players. Richell is bold in her approach to her character set and their related arcs. We witness their moments of elation and despair. In all instances emotions are felt at a high level. Lillian, the central character of the novel, is touched with so much clarity, that I felt as if I had stepped into her shoes and faced the problems she was dealing with, thanks to Richell’s prose. This also extends to her granddaughter Maggie, my heart ached for both these women, in different ways.
Richell is a very skilled writer, a rarity, who is able to successfully draw out the finite details, as well as the contrast between the sombre and light moments within her writing. This takes great talent, but Richell seems to take this in her stride, effortlessly issuing her reader with a deep psychological sketch of her characters and the binds they are placed in. I was able to draw out many resonating themes from this novel, from the value of family, secrets, artistry, passion, betrayal, emotional abuse and reconciling the past with the present. I feel readers will want to remain loyal to this novel from the first to the parting line. The audience is rewarded with a final curtain call that offers a sense of settlement or understanding to all the strands of the novel.
I cannot close this review without mentioning the looming presence of Cloudesley, the estate and home of the lead character Lillian. It has such presence in the novel that it is the most influential factor in the creating overall unique aura of The Peacock Summer.
An aging estate, a family mystery, flawed protagonists, heartbreak and passion are all ignited in this victorious new tale from Hannah Richell. I highly recommend The Peacock Summer to all passionate readers.
The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell was published on 26th June 2018 by Hachette Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Peacock Summer, Hannah Richell visit here.
*Please note that a free copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes through Beauty & Lace and Hachette Australia. To read the original review on the Beauty & Lace website please visit here.
The Peacock Summer, is book #84 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge