Present day – Maggie Oberon has been living a rather hedonistic life in Australia for the past year. She fled England after breaking up with her fiance under a dark cloud. When she learns of her beloved grandmother’s health issues, she flies back to take care of her.
After Maggie’s return, her eighty-six year old grandmother, Lillian, is released to her care. They go home to Cloudesley, the manor house in rural Buckinghamshire where Lillian brought Maggie up after her father left her there at a tender age.
Maggie sees Cloudesley through new eyes. The place is suffering from neglect and is falling into ruin. There is no money to carry out even the most essential of repairs. The old place has many closed off rooms, suffers from damp, wood-rot, and worse.
“Lillian and Cloudesley, she grew to understand, were the only consistencies she could rely upon.”
1955 – We meet a young Lillian as she meets and marries the widower Charles Oberon. She becomes stepmother to his son Albie, whom she loves as if he were her own. Cloudesley is in its prime. Fully staffed and in good repair, the old house has a personality all its own – though even back then it held its secrets close.
Although Lillian wants for nothing, her life is not a happy one. The much older Charles is controlling, volatile, and manipulative, even physically violent at times… Lillian feels like a bird trapped in a gilded cage. She cannot leave Charles, because that would mean leaving young Albie. Also, Charles pays for the fees so that her dear sister, who requires institutionalized care, can live in a safe and caring environment.
“In a house life this – for a family like this – perhaps it wasn’t so very strange to have ghost-rooms no one ever entered.”
One fateful summer, Charles hires an artist to paint a room at Cloudesley. He wants a full mural using all four walls and ceiling. So, the artist, Jack, moves in for the summer…
Combine family secrets, an atmospheric old English manor house, and dual timelines and you’ve created a recipe for a novel I’m sure to enjoy. “The Peacock Summer” did just that – making it a standout read for me personally.
I was absolutely riveted by both Maggie’s and Lillian’s stories. The characters were fully developed, real people, with strengths and weaknesses. They both have made decisions that they have cause to regret… But then, haven’t we all?
The old house, the grounds, all were vivid in my imagination. When the book ended, I was loathe to leave them.
In short, I loved this novel. In my opinion it was comparable to the best work of Kate Morton, Rosamund Pilcher, and Harriet Evans. A realistic family saga that might pull at your heart strings. Highly recommended!
I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Harper Collins via Edelweiss. My honest review is my way of saying thanks to both author and publisher.Hannah Richell was born in Kent and spent her childhood years in Buckinghamshire and Canada. After graduating from the University of Nottingham she worked in the book publishing and film industries.
She began to write in 2007 while pregnant with her first child. The result was Secrets of the Tides, which was picked for the 2012 Richard & Judy Book Club, the Waterstones Book Club and was shortlisted for the Australian Independent Bookseller Best Debut Fiction Award, ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year (2013) and ABIA Newcomer of the Year (2013). The novel was translated into fifteen languages.
Her second novel was The Shadow Year, published in 2013. The Peacock Summer is her third novel.
Hannah Richell a dual citizen of the UK and Australia, though she currently lives in the South West of England with her family.