Friday, 16 September 2011

The House of Women: new review

Anne Whitfield, Knox Robinson, 2011, £12.99, pb, 381pp, 9780956790187
The House of Women is a poignant, very readable novel of life in Victorian England, which is set in Leeds at the height of the Victorian era in 1870. The moving story follows the life of Grace Woodruff, the eldest of seven daughters, who has to assume responsibility for her sisters and their vast estate.

Grace has put aside her own broken heart, as she is rejected by her first love, in order to keep the family together. Her mother has withdrawn to her rooms, and Grace becomes the buffer between her sisters and their violent, tyrannical father. Grace struggles to keep the family together through a compelling story which is woven with violence, alcoholism and out-of-wedlock pregnancies, rejection, illness and impoverishment.

Although there is betrayal, hatred and lies, there is also love. The rich, colourful, complex characters bring this family saga to life. It is beautifully written with a very strong heroine who, even when the rest of the family are pulling her in many ways, tries to stay strong, although there is the odd slip along the way. As the story unfolds we meet an admirer for Grace, the butler, and a shift foreman is also smitten with her. Grace really wants to have her own family, and when the possibility of love comes along, Grace must decide if she should give up the responsibility of the House of Women and take her own chance of happiness.

The challenges Grace faces with twists and turns along the way make this book a great read. It has the reader hooked from page one, keeps the reader guessing and is difficult to put down once started. An excellent book, highly recommended.

Barbara Goldie 
Historical Novels Review (August, 2011)

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