Book Review: The Peacock Summer
Author: Hannah Richell
Publication date: 26 June 2018
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Two summers, decades apart. Two women whose lives are forever entwined. And a house that holds the secrets that could free them both. (Hachette Australia)
The Peacock Summer is a dual timeline narrative where author Hannah Richell plays with the resonances between two summers over sixty years apart and the women who lived through them. Richell moves deftly between the two narratives, creating a high degree of tension in the holding back of the two main character’s secrets. I enjoyed reading a dual timeline narrative where the historical period was the 1950s – I haven’t come across one of these before and I felt it was an interesting time period to explore in fiction.
This is the first novel by Hannah Richell that I have read and I just loved her prose style, simple and straightforward enough to maintain narrative tension but with a lovely use of language and description. Reading this novel was like being taken along for a swift ride with lots of gorgeous scenery available to look at along the way. I rushed the book just a little, carried along by the story, but never failed to appreciate Richell’s writing.
The main characters, Maggie and Lillian Oberon were equally well drawn and I enjoyed the warm relationship between the two. While both characters were highly relatable, I found the modern Maggie alienating at times but was drawn through the plot to understand her better. Richell’s writing stood out again in her ability to distinguish the characters and their time periods in dialogue. Maggie’s modern dialogue was very true to reality.
I have so far concentrated on the technical aspects of the book that I admired, and there are many more that I could go into that I won’t. I think this novel will appeal to other readers who enjoy a blend of mystery, family drama, historical fiction and romance. It bears some similarities to the novels of Kate Morton, particularly in the English setting and the aura of dark historical secrets, but is overall less gothic, more understated.
The one thing I can’t stop thinking about this novel is how perfectly its cover (edition pictured above) suits it. The lush petals of the open face of the rose, its many layers, its promise of sensory pleasure, the fine details all around that catch the eye – if this cover appeals to you then the contents of the book should too.