1925. The war is over and a new generation is coming of age, keen to put the trauma of the previous one behind them.
Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure; to parties and drinking and staying just the right side of scandal. Lawrence Weston is a struggling artist, and desperate to escape the poverty of his upbringing and make something of himself. When their worlds collide one summer night, neither can resist the thrill of the forbidden, the lure of a love affair that they know cannot possibly last.
But there is a dark side to pleasure and a price to be paid for breaking the rules. By the end of that summer everything has changed.
A decade later, nine year old Alice is staying at Blackwood Hall with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother’s letters to discover the secrets of the past, the truth about the present, and hope for the future.
I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today for The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey, my thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to join, and also my apologies for posting slightly later than normal! I’ve just moved house this weekend and I’m currently without the internet – I’ve been lugging my laptop around my village, dragging my poorly six year old with me in the hopes of finding a family member or friend who is both in and willing to let me steal their WiFi long enough to format and post this review!
Iona Grey is a new author for me, although I’ll now be looking out for her first novel, Letters to the Lost simply because I enjoyed The Glittering Hour so much!
Whilst we’re taught to never judge a book by its cover, I will on this occasion have to talk about the beauty of the cover. It is one of the most stunning designs I’ve ever seen. Eye catching colours in a style perfect for the era in which the story unfolds. I know that this is a book I’d be visually drawn to amongst a sea of others in a bookshop.
The story itself is beautifully told. The descriptions of the parties and the pleasure-seeking ways of the Bright Young Things. The storytelling is vivid and the characters are drawn amongst an explosion of colour and hedonism. There is something familiar about them, despite the distance in terms of decades and I found myself relating to them. The desperation to break away from the old, to pursue their own interests and to just enjoy life. Whilst we no longer have the immediate excuse of the aftermath of a world war; they seem to me to be normal (although privileged) young people finding their place in the world.
When Selina meets Lawrence, he is on the outskirts of her world. A distant observer who doesn’t belong. But yet their attraction, although forbidden, is believable and I was swept away by their growing love for one another.
Meanwhile, a decade later, Alice is installed at her grandparents home and the tone of the novel could not be more different. Suddenly quiet; isolation and loneliness pricks at every paragraph. The beautiful grand home is past its best. Everything is dull and grey and the stark contrast beautifully enhances the sheen of the twenties. The letters she receives from her mother are a bright spot in her existence and their contents shimmer with exotic promise.
One of the most interesting elements of this book for me, was the focus on the women and their position in society, not in terms of their social status, but in terms of their gender. The almost laughable beliefs of the doctor towards the latter stages of the book truly shocked me as did the realisation of the tightrope women walked in terms of what was seen as ‘sane’ behaviour.
Whilst my rational side may have questioned the way in which things were revealed to Alice, and how on earth the aftermath would have been managed in a world so focused on appearances – my romantic self didn’t give a flying fig. I was utterly invested and was merrily swept along for the ride.
The Glittering Hour has been a complete joy to read. Sumptuous and richly descriptive, whilst offering a wonderful love story at its heart. The characters, particularly Selina, are captivating and the ending is incredibly emotive; a swirl of love, loss and hope. Highly recommended to anyone who loves to get lost in a period romance; this gave me everything I was looking for and a bit more besides.
About the Author
Iona Grey has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters. She tweets @iona_grey.
*I received a copy of The Glittering Hour from the publisher. The decision to read and take part in this blog tour was my own, and this review forms my honest opinion.