House of Trelawaney by Hannah Mary Rothschild
The rise and fall? of an Aristocratic family in Cornwall.
House of Trelawney by Hannah Mary Rothschild
Published in: 2020
Reviewed by: Book Worm
This ARC was provided by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads: From the author of The Improbability of Love a dazzling novel both satirical and moving, about an eccentric, dysfunctional family of English aristocrats, and their crumbling stately home that reminds us how the lives and hopes of women can still be shaped by the ties of family and love.
For more than seven hundred years, the vast, rambling Trelawney Castle in Cornwall–turrets, follies, a room for every day of the year, four miles of corridors and 500,000 acres–was the magnificent and grand “three dimensional calling card” of the earls of Trelawney. By 2008, it is in a complete state of ruin due to the dulled ambition and the financial ineptitude of the twenty-four earls, two world wars, the Wall Street crash, and inheritance taxes. Still: the heir to all of it, Kitto, his wife, Jane, their three children, their dog, Kitto’s ancient parents, and his aunt Tuffy Scott, an entomologist who studies fleas, all manage to live there and keep it going. Four women dominate the story: Jane; Kitto’s sister, Blaze, who left Trelawney and made a killing in finance in London, the wildly beautiful, seductive, and long-ago banished Anastasia and her daughter, Ayesha. When Anastasia sends a letter announcing that her nineteen-year-old daughter, Ayesha, will be coming to stay, the long-estranged Blaze and Jane must band together to take charge of their new visitor–and save the house of Trelawney. But both Blaze and Jane are about to discover that the house itself is really only a very small part of what keeps the family together.
Book Worm’s Thoughts: My first thought on finishing this book was “hold on what happened to that other storyline?” Now thinking about it I suspect there will be another edition to the story of Trelawney (there really needs to be). While one of the 3 central storylines is all tied up nicely at the end of the book the other 2 are left dangling like loose threads ready to be taken up again.
While I enjoyed this book it does rely on some common stereotypes. We have the aging aristocratic parents who refuse to see that their way of life has come to end; we have the spoilt eldest sons will inherit everything regardless of whether they want to or not and regardless of whether they will be good custodians; we have the childless high flying city woman who makes a name for herself making money and we have the downtrodden, dowdy wife who was only married for her money. While some of these stereotypes are turned on their heads by the end of the book I would have liked to see a fresher approach earlier on in the set-up.
What I did love was the characters. Despite a shaky start by the end of the book Clarissa is hysterical using the generally held view of herself to make herself a household name in a way only she could pull off. Tuffy was a great character from the first, I loved the way her eccentricity was related to science and that she was acknowledged in her own field. Ayesha is just out there, seeming a “super bitch” but what is the long game and will she win in the end? In comparison with the women all the men do come off badly even the “hero” again a more even handed approach could have been applied.
There are some great moments in the book and these are some of my favourite quotes:
“The girl had to be one of Kitto’s children and, for Tuffy the only good relation was a dead relation.”
“Centuries of absolute power had dulled the male brain, whereas women, forced for so long to cajole and manipulate, had evolved into far more complex and capable beings.”
“Our ability to tell, create and believe in stories is Homo Sapiens’ most powerful weapon.”
“One is proud of winning a flower show of the Cheltenham Gold Cup; family is a thing you have to put up with. You hope to respect them, even like them, but it’s better not to set the bar too high.”
Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys books about the aristocracy and dysfunctional families who is looking for some light hearted escapism with the odd gasp out loud moment thrown in for good measure.
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