When you get a book free with an eye test you don’t really expect it to be good especially when it has been recommended by Channel 4´s Book Club, who have the most unqualified, inane reviewers ever. I only managed one episode and got so upset with Gok Wan, etc. reviewing books that I could not bring myself to watch any more. I was also initially pessimistic due to the terrible book cover, which does not relate to the time frame of the story and looks like a trashy chick lit read. Despite these drawbacks the book actually turned out to be a good read.
The story has a good opening hook, it has a baby being abandoned by Caroline at the turn of the last century, which is extremely moving. The chapters have a dual narrative and alternate between the current day story of two sisters Erica and Beth, who have returned to their ancestral home in Wiltshire after the death of their grandmother, and the story of Caroline, a New Yorker who moves to Oklahoma after her marriage to a cattle rancher. The story of Caroline has an interesting historical context, focusing on the theme of white settlement of the previously Indian owned Oklahoma Territory. It highlights difficulties of being a woman in the west, and the sense of isolation and the unknown. The story also touches on the plight of the Native Americans, although not as much as I would have liked. This is not the period of the great settlement of the west largely because Webb needs to make Caroline´s life span long enough so that her grand daughters Beth and Erica can know her.
Both time periods deal with the issue of missing children. We gradually discover the mystery of the child that Caroline abandons at the start of the novel. Beth and Erica meanwhile, are trying to cope with their own disappearance of their cousin Henry over twenty years before.
I am very jealous of the author. I always read the biography of the author and get upset when they are younger than me, have studied history, and have gone onto write a successful historical novel.
My only negative was that I found the end slightly weak and a bit of an anti climax. There is also the obvious criticism of the amount of novels that use the theme of history mirroring the present. Overall though, a good page turner, ideal for a weekend or on the beach.