I have long been waiting to read a book by Susanna Kearsley and I savored this novel page by page. Read on to see what I thought of this author's latest novel.
Book Title: Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley
Category: Adult Fiction, 432 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Release date: April 24, 2018
Content Rating: G
It’s 1759 and the world is at war, pulling the North American colonies of Britain and France into the conflict. The times are complicated, as are the loyalties of many New York merchants who have secretly been trading with the French for years, defying Britain’s colonial laws in a game growing ever more treacherous.
When captured French officers are brought to Long Island to be billeted in private homes on their parole of honour, it upends the lives of the Wilde family—deeply involved in the treasonous trade and already divided by war.
Lydia Wilde, struggling to keep the peace in her fracturing family following her mother’s death, has little time or kindness to spare for her unwanted guests. French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran has little desire to be there. But by the war’s end they’ll both learn love, honour, and duty can form tangled bonds that are not broken easily.
Their doomed romance becomes a local legend, told and re-told through the years until the present day, when conflict of a different kind brings Charley Van Hoek to Long Island to be the new curator of the Wilde House Museum.
Charley doesn’t believe in ghosts. But as she starts to delve into the history of Lydia and her French officer, it becomes clear that the Wilde House holds more than just secrets, and Charley discovers the legend might not have been telling the whole story...or the whole truth.
Bellewether is a dual timeline story alternating between the present and 1759, with exactly the same setting and events unfolding in the same house but during two different time periods. In the present we have Charley who is the new curator of the Wilde House Museum. She has a "meh" relationship with her boyfriend and has moved in with her college-age niece who is now alone since Charley's brother died. Charley loves researching the history of the Wilde house and her discoveries follow the story that takes place in 1759 when the Wilde family take in two enemy French officers, POWs on parole of honour.
Lydia Wilde is the only daughter in a house of men (her mother died) and she and French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran are not happy to be in the same house together. The presence of the French officers further strains the already tense atmosphere by Lydia's youngest brother who also fought in the war against the French.
This is where Kearsley's writing talent comes into play. She creates a tense situation and realistically builds on how the family and the officers had to learn to co-habit even as the war is still raging and they do not speak the same language. I loved how the relationship and eventual love between Lydia and Jean-Philippe builds, like a slow burn. Kearsley shows how even during war, or despite it, people have the same fears, needs and compassion no matter which side they are on. She peels back the layers of their personalities during this highly conflicting time, which only adds to the pleasure of their relationship.
There is a ghost in this story, which I tolerated as I do not like or read ghost stories. As with most dual timeline stories I have read, I seem to find one timeline more interesting than the other. In this case, the historical timeline or Lydia's story was more interesting to me, even as I enjoyed the present day story. I loved how Kearsley brings both stories together by the end of the novel and how she built the mystery of what really happened between Lydia and Jean-Philippe. Is there any truth to their tragic legend?
If you are a fan of Kearsley's novels then you will enjoy this new story. If you are reading her work for the first time, this novel has her signature mystery/paranormal/historical richness evident in all her books. This was an enjoyable and highly satisfying read for me.
Disclosure: Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.
|Photo: Jacques du Toit|