I’d left Rachel Hore’s book on the library shelf before, but this one I couldn’t resist!
The story opens in the present. Lucy’s father has died, and as she goes through his papers she discovers that he has been researching the life of an uncle she knew nothing about. She wonders why this man had been written out of her family history.
And so on a trip to Cornwall she makes a detour so that she can visit Carlyon, her father’s childhood home. She meets Beatrice, an elderly widow who knew her father and his family many years earlier.
Beatrice grew up in the 1930s the only child of middle class parents. She seemed a solitary child, but in time she made friends with the children of the aristocratic Wincanton family who lived at the big house. Carlyon.
Angelina Wincanton was her best friend. She was blonde, pretty, charming, but just a little spoiled. And she was Lucy’s grandmother.
One summer, the year she turned fifteen, Beatrice met Rafe. Lucy’s mysterious uncle. They quickly became friends and, of course, Beatrice would introduce Rafe to the Wincantons. They were charmed by him, and he by them, but something wasn’t quite right.
And as Beatrice and Angelina grow up their friendship remains but the differences between them become apparent. In class, character, character, attitude, outlook…
Beatrice’s father’s health deteriorates.
And then war comes, and it changes everything.
The story moves between Cornwall, London and France as the War changes the lives of Beatrice, Rafe and the Wincantons. Irrevocably.
I knew from the first page that Rachel Hore could write wonderfully. She mixes wonderful descriptions and very real emotions with just the right amount of restraint.
Each every one of a broad cast of characters, and all of their relationships, were beautifully drawn. I didn’t like them all, but I understood and believed in each and every one. I did like the young Beatrice. Very much. She was brave, intelligent, compassionate … and fallible …
And I must praise the plotting and the storytelling too. Many characters and plot threads were woven together so cleverly. And although I realised how the central mystery must play out while there was still some way to go it really didn’t matter. I didn’t want the journey to end. Because I went through so many emotions, such highs and such lows, with this book.
The one weak link, I felt, was the contemporary story. It lacked the depth of the story of the past and would have been better to either give it more space to grow or to push it back to be simply a framing device. As it was it just felt a little bit forced.
But still I loved The Gathering Storm. It was an engaging story very well told.
And now I have Rachel Hore’s backlist to investigate. It looks very promising …