Philippa Gregory is a talented author with a knack for making characters come alive. But I have noticed a not-so-wonderful pattern to her novels: The beginnings are usually very strong, and then they peter off. Too many of her novels have weak endings. The most vivid example of this is THE WHITE QUEEN, which ended just before the tragedy of the murders of the two sons of the protagonist. Unfortunately, this was another such novel.
As with all of her novels, I loved the way it began. I loved the way in which the character of Lily came to life, the lovely adolescent, whose high spirits seem to carry her through everything. And I loved the way the war veteran pursued her like a much-needed drink of fresh water.
But after they married, and after they’d settled into an unhappy marriage of convenience, the novel lost its way. And I couldn’t finish it.
For me, the reason was not just because it is a horribly depressing novel with unlikeable characters. It was because the pacing failed. In other words, the novel slowed down to a crawl that seemed to show no signs of picking up. I have remarked in another review of another Gregory novel (LADY OF THE RIVERS) that Gregory’s pacing was off. And I find the same problem here. To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend this novel to anyone, unless they were particularly interested in reading about the 1920s. (Gregory does a good job of using period details to bring it to life.) Which is a pity. Two stars.