Oh Lucinda!

I hoped that I would love ‘The Light Behind the Window’ as much as I loved ‘The Girl on the Cliff,’ I really did. But I didn’t.

There’s no doubt at all that you know how to spin a story.

Emilie de la Marinieres  travelled from Paris to her family home, a grand chateau in southern France, when she learned that her mother was gravely ill. They hadn’t been close: Emilie couldn’t understand how her mother found such joy in life as a socialite, and her mother couldn’t understand why her daughter had turned her back on all of that, why she wanted a career.

Her mother died, and Emilie found that sorting her family affairs would be a huge job, and that she would face difficult and painful decisions.

And then she met a man. An Englishman. Sebastian Carruthers had just lost his grandmother, the woman who raised him and his brother, and so he could understand her feelings. And he was more than ready to help.

Work had brought Sebastian to France, he said, but while he was there he wanted to see that chateau where his grandmother had spent time during the war.

In 1943, Constance Carruthers was recruited by the Special Operations Executive, and trained to become an agent. She had family in france, so she spoke the language like a native. And her husband was missing in action; she had to do something, whatever she could to bring the war to an end.

Things did not go to plan in France and Constance found herself in the heart of occupied Paris, in the household of Edouard de la Marinieres. Emilie’s father.

In 1999 Emilie, swept off her feet, married Sebastian. But she didn’t get the happy ending she had been hoping for.

The story began slowly, and if I hadn’t had faith in the author I probably would have given up. The writing was awkward and the dialogue was stilted and weighed down by far too much exposition.

But when Connie’s story began things picked up. Lucinda Riley’s writing is much better when things are happening, and from this point there was plenty happening in both stands of the story. I found that I was reading a book that was both romance and thriller, and that there were so many twists and turns that I had to keep turning the pages to find out what happened.

I loved Emilie and Constance; such well drawn characters.

The stories of past and present were cleverly, and naturally linked, and it was fascinating to see the one echoing the other. I prefered the wartime story, and though the contemporary story was readable it felt a little bit too contrived, a little bit too hard to believe.

There was a lack of subtlety there and in too many other places. The villains in each strand were a particular problem, a bit more cartoon baddie than believable human being.

Such a pity because there were so many lovely details and wonderful moments.

The ending struck a wrong note. It shouldn’t have belonged to a former German officer who had concerns about his regime but did nothing more that help those he loved and flee when he feared discovery. Other did far more, risked far more, when they saw the evils of the Nazi regime.

There was a better ending there for the taking, and better book to be written from the material.

9 responses

  1. Oh darn, this sounds like a missed opportunity. I am not a fan of the historical/modern split narrative. Sometimes I wish authors would just stick to the historical as it usually turns out to be more interesting and fulfilling than the modern story.

    • I like them, and they can work well. A Lady Cyclists Guide to the Kashgar comes to mind because there were links and there were contrasts. But there are rather too many around at the moment.

  2. A honest review, and I admire that. I loved the book, but the history student in me did want to know more about SOE and the wartime side of the story.

    • I had high hopes when I read your review Jo, and I put the book to one side when it didn’t click first time, but when I tried again it still didn’t work. I’m inclined to think that Lucinda Riley’s style is better suited to family stories with the focus on human stories rather than serious issues and history.

  3. I enjoyed The Girl on the Cliff and I have a copy of this one, though I haven’t had time to start reading it yet. I’ve been looking forward to it, so I’m sorry to hear you had a few problems with it. The wartime storyline does sound fascinating though.

    • It was still readable,I was always going to read to the end to find out what happen, but there I found too many flaws to forgive. There is a great deal to enjoy in the wartime story though and I’ll be interested to read your thoughts one day.

  4. I enjoyed this book, but I enjoyed the wartime sections better than the modern sections. Is The Orchid House the American title of what in the UK was Hothouse Flower?

    • I’ve just checked Amazon.com Margaret, and The Orchid House does seem to be the book that we know as Hothouse Flower. A pity so many titles get changed in these days when so many from different parts of the world can talk about books together. Sometimes, of course, there’s a bood reason but I can’t see one here.

      I prefered the wartime sections too, and I wished I liked the book more because there were some very good things. Sadly though there were rather too many things that bothered me. My fingers are crossed now for Lucinda Riley’s next book.

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