Published by Bantam on 1988
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Six months after her husband's sudden death, Leonora Galloway sets off for a holiday in Paris with her daughter Penelope. At last the time has come when secrets can be shared and explanations begin...
Their journey starts with an unscheduled stop at the imposing Thiepval Memorial to the dead of the Battle of the Somme near Amiens. Amongst those commemorated is Leonora's father. The date of his death is recorded and 30th April, 1916. But Leonora wasn't born until 14th March 1917.
Penelope at once supposes a simple wartime illegitimacy as the clue to her mother's unhappy childhood and the family's sundered connections with her aristocratic heritage, about which she has always known so little.
But nothing could have prepared her, or the reader, for the extraordinary story that is about to unfold.
Six months following her husband’s death, 70-year old Leonora Galloway takes her daughter, Penelope, on vacation to Paris but with a few unscheduled stops. The first is to Thievpal, site of the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme where her father, Captain John Hallows, perished in World War I. This begins Leonora’s tale of her life’s odyssey amidst her family’s secrets, shared with her daughter for the first time.
This is a tragic story told beautifully in an almost poetic style. The words matter here as they work to frame not only the events but capture the soul of each character. It didn’t take me long to become almost mesmerized by the writing, even when I felt repulsed by some of the actions. What’s brilliant, however, is how impossible it is to form lasting judgments about the characters (with a couple of exceptions) as they are just sometimes victims of circumstances, making choices that may appear unforgivable on the surface. It’s what lies beneath that’s not always evident or clear and I found my opinions shifting with each chapter.
Told from multiple points of view and in strong voices, the story was compelling and the characters layered. There are many twists and turns, even through the last page. I loved this book and my experience reading it. It’s my first by this writer and certainly not my last.