Saturday, 8 February 2014

Sister Reads | Review: The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley


Book: The Midnight Rosa

Author: Lucinda Riley

Pages: 496 pages

Time it took me to read: 7 hours (in one straight sitting)

Plot Summary:

Spanning four generations, The Midnight Rose sweeps from the glittering palaces of the great maharajas of India to the majestic stately homes of England, following the extraordinary life of a remarkable girl, Anahita Chavan, from 1911 to the present day . . .

In the heyday of the British Raj, eleven-year-old Anahita, from a noble but impoverished family, forms a lifelong friendship with the headstrong Princess Indira, the privileged daughter of Indian royalty. As the princess's official companion, Anahita accompanies her friend to England just before the outbreak of World War I. There, she meets young Donald Astbury;reluctant heir to the magnifcient, remote Astbury Estate and his scheming mother. 

Ninety years later, Rebecca Bradley, a young American film star, has the world at her feet. But when her turbulent relationship with her equally famous boyfriend takes an unexpected turn, she is relieved that her latest role, playing a 1920s debutante, will take her away from the glare of publicity to a distant corner of the English countryside. Shortly after filming begins at the now-crumbling Astbury Hall, Ari Malik, Anahita's great-grandson, arrives unexpectedly, on a quest for his family's past. What he and Rebecca discover begins to unravel the dark secrets that haunt the Astbury dynasty . . . 

A multi-layered, heartbreaking tale filled with unforgettable characters caught in the sweep of history, The Midnight Rose is Lucinda Riley at her most captivating and unforgettable.


What I Liked: 
1. I like the premise and format of the book. I really enjoy books that move between two different time periods and show us the perspectives of multiple characters from both these eras. This book, much like some of my favourite Kate Morton books, swings between the early days of the 20th Century to pre-World War I and post-World War I and, of course, present day. It was interesting to get a peek into the lives of the royals in India in the early 1900s- the luxury, their lifestyle etc. To a large extent, the book is well researched, which is always a heartening thing. 

2. I really liked the characters in this book. Anahita (Anni), Indira (Indy), Donald, Donald's sister- Lady Selina- and Indira's mother- Queen Ayesha- are all very nicely etched characters. They are also nice people, who find themselves in interesting and, sometimes, frustrating situations. Also, in present day, Rebecca and Ari very interesting to read about. The friendship between Anni and Indy is also very sweet and in some ways also very real. It is not some idealised version of friendship that only exists in books and not-so-much in real life. Donald is a sweet and, slightly, helpless guy. *Spoiler* It is not easy to guess at the very beginning of the book that he and Anni are the intended couple who won't really get together. *End of Spoiler* (That was not the big secret, really!) 

3. The story moved at a very crisp pace. There was nothing wasteful or not required in the book. All the characters, events and scenes are perfectly paced with just the right amount of details, which made this thick book a quick read. 

4. The present-day events and mystery were also interesting, which is impressive, given that in a lot of books that follow this dual time period format, one of the time periods is more interesting to read about than the other. In this case, both sets of events and characters were interesting to read about. 

What I Didn't Like: 
1. A lot of Anni's actions and choices didn't make any sense. Without giving things away, when she returns to England after the war, there was no reason to not meet Donald in person. The ensuing chain of events could have been avoided if she had met him.

2. The book completely glosses over racism. Anni is a brown woman in pre-World War I England, where, and we have this from multiple historical accounts, Indians were not welcome and thoroughly discriminated against. However, Anni not only meets all charming and lovely people (I am not saying that England didn't have such people in spades back in the day) and even manages to find a job as a nurse in a large hospital in London. There is just one teeny tiny incident of racism that she experiences and nothing else. I find that a tad hard to believe. I am not saying that this book should have been full of racial angst or anything, but adequately representing it in a story, which is essentially about an Indian girl in England would have been appropriate. 

3. Donald's choices in Anni's absence from his life also are slightly questionable. I don't want to spoil things too much but what he chose and eventually some of his actions don't sync together well at all. I don't think the author was fair to Donald's character. 

Would you like it?: Yes. If you enjoy well-written historical fiction and enjoy books that move between two time periods, you will like it. 
Rating: 4/5 

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