Larkswood by Valerie Mendes

Spell Binding

Larkswood by Valerie Mendes is an epic tale that I just could not put down. Valerie Mendes drew me into the story from the start as I questioned who, what, where, when and how? As I read on, I tried to guess the answers – and failed as the jaw dropping reveal occurred.

The novel is set in 1896-7 and 1939 as England prepares for war. It is a world on the brink of change as women will need to step up into jobs vacated by men going to war. The old order is about to die but there is one more spring and summer first.

The action alternates between the two time periods. Larkswood, the house, is a keeper of secrets but little by little the truth will come out. It almost takes on a personality all of its own.

Victorian fathers ruled with an iron rod. Children who should have been cherished were cruelly treated or abandoned into the care of servants.

It was a time of class with the wealthy demanding loyalty from their servants. Bonds did form that would not be broken.

1939 saw the old world order about to collapse but not before the debutants were introduced in the spring to the King and Queen. For one character this is important. A debutant season seems very out dated to the modern reader. A preoccupation with society, invitations and clothes contrasts with another character’s outlook where nature and the countryside are important. Clothes are needed for practical reasons and the mode of transport is on foot or by bike. London life is stifling in contrast with the freedom of the countryside.

Within the novel there are two sets of sisters. Both have different relationships but there are strong bonds of love.

Larkswood was a totally absorbing read that I could not put down. I failed to guess what was deeply hidden. I admired the leading lady with her bravery and tenacity, when she wanted answers she was surely going to get them!

Larkswood gives the reader a glimpse into a bygone age. It was a marvellous read.

JULIA WILSON

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