Secrets of Nanreath Hall
by Alix Rickloff
Release Date: August 2nd 2016
2016 William Morrow Paperbacks
Ebook Edition; 416 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher
4 / 5 Stars
Cornwall, 1940. Back in
England after the harrowing evacuation at Dunkirk, WWII Red Cross nurse
Anna Trenowyth is shocked to learn her adoptive parents Graham and Prue
Handley have been killed in an air raid. She desperately needs their
advice as she’s been assigned to the military hospital that has set up
camp inside her biological mother’s childhood home—Nanreath Hall. Anna
was just six years old when her mother, Lady Katherine Trenowyth, died.
All she has left are vague memories that tease her with clues she can’t
unravel. Anna’s assignment to Nanreath Hall could be the chance for her
to finally become acquainted with the family she’s never known—and to
unbury the truth and secrets surrounding her past.
1913. In the luxury of pre-WWI England, Lady Katherine Trenowyth is
expected to do nothing more than make a smart marriage and have a
respectable life. When Simon Halliday, a bohemian painter, enters her
world, Katherine begins to question the future that was so carefully
laid out for her. Her choices begin to lead her away from the stability
of her home and family toward a wild existence of life, art, and love.
But as everything begins to fall apart, Katherine finds herself
destitute and alone.
Secrets of Nanreath Hall is one those historical novels that gently unfolds, without a whole lot of drama, into a nice historical novel that is still interesting and with characters that are charming and quirky.
The novel is written is dual timeline format, one during the Great War and the other during World War II. If done right, the dual timeline works rather well, and although I enjoyed the two story lines in this novel, I don't think they quite connected in the way that was intended as they felt a bit disjointed and didn't quite live up to the promise of great secrets and family intrigues in the book's summary. I did enjoy them for the descriptions of the individual wars and the effects they had on each character; the Great War perspective was told from Kitty's viewpoint and women's struggles to survive as the men battled on the front while Anna's perspective was from a nursing perspective as men recovered from serious wounds diseases fighting in France and Italy. There was also quite a bit of information on pilots and the grievous injuries and losses they suffered during WWII; it was quite apparent the author did a lot of research on the subject matter which showed in her writing.
I enjoyed both Anna and Kitty's characters. Kitty, deciding to follow her heart, leaves her family and their expectations as debutante and wife to live with Simon and pursue her dreams. Their daughter, Anna, raised by family friends, after a tragic accident is posted to her mother's old home and decided it's time to discover what has been hidden from her all of these years. To be honest, it wasn't hard to figure out what the big 'secret' was that had been hidden from Anna all this time; it's an old familiar story that has been written about over and over again. What I rather liked about Anna's investigations was the people with which she in contact,how it all came together, and especially Anna's interactions with the soldiers, of which there wasn't enough. I also liked how she got along with Hugh, her cousin, and his mother, despite her aloofness, with little drama. It seems like so many novels are so full of drama and angst that the actual story gets overlooked. Things weren't exactly perfect for a while, but I liked how the characters got to know each other and developed deep bonds for each other.
Secrets of Nanreath Hall was an interesting story, but I especially liked how the author brought the after-effects of the war to life through the stories of nurses like Anna, the soldiers convalescing, the bombings that occurred, and through the descriptions of London and other places recently bombed. I thought the author did a great job portraying the time period, the hopelessness people felt during those dark times before the U.S. joined the war effort; it's very compelling, and it's the stories of these people that linger long afterwards. While Anna and Kitty's story line is really nothing novel in terms of story telling, this story is also a story about how these wars changed society and changed people, and the struggle that came with that change, and that's what I found fascinating. I am definitely looking forward to the next chapter in this series, the story about Cynthia's daughter.