Theo, Phyllis and Jessica Melville and Oskar Grunewald spend holidays together at the Melville Estate, a house done up to look like a castle. When Theo dies in the war the whole families are thrown into mourning and their own particular ways of trying to move on in life.
This book was strange. At it’s best moments it reminded me of I Capture the Castle, but only really because of the big house. Really each character alienated me, I didn’t enjoy the unfolding of the various story lines and though I did keep reading I wasn’t sure that I wanted too. I didn’t feel invested enough to endure the drama of the different characters. But I’m wondering whether actually it was a fairly accurate depiction of a dysfunctional family torn apart by grief.
If it was, I still didn’t like it. But it makes the whole thing a bit more believable, and interesting. The family is evidently falling apart from the very start, with two unfaithful uncaring parents, ignored daughters and idolised son Theo who holds them together. His death throws his mother into the grips of spiritualists, his father into ferocious study into the intricacies and history of the house, Phyllis into nursing and studies and Jessica into a desperation to experience life.
We follow two characters specifically, Oscar and Jessica. I wanted to like Jessica, but she kept making such destructive decisions and not seeing sense that she got more and more annoying. She did have no guidance figures at all, but it felt as though she had a bit more sense at least to start with. Oscar was a more likeable character, but his sections were stuffed with science references that I didn’t understand and didn’t care enough to try to understand. I was definitely gunning him, but couldn’t help but feel the best thing for him would be to escape the clutches of the contents of the novel completely.
It felt like a combination of good topics from the period: we had all sorts of interesting topics stuffed in there: the death of the country estate, spiritualism, the aftermath of the war, the advancement of science, music, literature… but still the story failed to interest me enough. The plot itself was quite gripping, with all sorts of secrets being exposed, but I just wasn’t convinced.
All in all, nah.