With a booklovers excitement I had been anticipating reading the latest offering from Lucinda Riley for quite a while. Having read and (thoroughly) enjoyed all of her previous novels (especially The Light Behind The Window) I couldn’t wait to delve into Riley’s latest family drama.
Readers familiar with my Jemm Frances Reads posts know that I’m a huge fan of historical stories, those which hark back to era’s past, but The Midnight Rose, spanning decades, generations and continents can only be described as an extraordinary saga.
India, 2000: In Darjeeling, Anahita Chavan’s family gathers to celebrate her 100th birthday. Anahita has lived a remarkable life and she knows that time is running out to tell her story. She hands over her self penned memoirs to great-grandson Ari Malik, entrusting that he will, in his own time, follow the quest to discover the truth behind hidden family secrets and solve the mysteries of a forgotten era.
India 1911: At the height of the British Raj eleven year old Anahita Chavan derives from noble but impoverished parents so when she meets and befriends Indira, a royal princess, she gets to live a life she’s only dreamed of. Becoming the official companion of Princess Indira Anahita lives inside the colourful palace of Cooch Behar and travels with the royal family across the sea to England where she attends a prestigious boarding school alongside the Princess. It is here, on the cusp of the Great War, that their bond is tested to its very limits and where Anahita meets her destiny; a young Donald Astbury, heir to Astbury Hall, and her undoing; his devious mother.
England, present day: Decades later, American movie star Rebecca Bradley is brought to Dartmoor after being cast as a 1920s debutante in a film set at Astbury Hall. In a bid to offer her solace from the media spotlight the current Lord of the manor gives Miss Bradley hospitality in the house, but despite its beauty Rebecca soon finds that the Hall and its master hide a darkness even she couldn’t imagine. It is only with the arrival of Ari Malik, brought to Astbury by his great-grandmothers memoirs, that the halls haunting secrets start to unravel and Anahita Chavan’s connection to the estate and its past is finally brought out into the light.
The Midnight Rose is both beautifully written and brilliantly atmospheric, seamlessly moving you between decades and continents. The dual time narrative spans over 688 pages making it a truly colossal novel, which is really a good thing as when you’re reading it you don’t want it to end.
As ever Lucinda Riley is wonderfully descriptive as she perfectly conjures up life in Indian palaces, aristocratic English boarding schools and stately homes and the bustling London hospitals at the time of WW1. Her skill for creating characters that her readers can empathise with and feel close to is second to none, from first meeting Anahita at age eleven to when she passes aged 100 you are routing for her to find the peace she deserves.
The Midnight Rose is a captivating read from the first page to its last, it certainly doesn’t disappoint, and I’ve come to expect nothing less from Lucinda Riley, a true storyteller if ever there was one.
Bookworm Business: Are you a fan of Lucinda Riley and her previous work? Already read The Midnight Rose? Let me know your thoughts!