I am steadily making my way through the December 2020 gifts. This is another one from the pile. They have made me immensely happy, and I love the fact that despite it being late February I still have things that remind me of the lovely Christmas time.
I got this book in hardback and it has a beautiful cover. Very tactile, looking like it is gilded in gold. So it was pretty obvious I’ll get to it pretty fast, being the sucker for pretty things. The entire story revolves around the Trelawney Castle. Based in Cornwall it was the family seat of Earls of Trelawney for 800 years. Only each new Earl was living more and more ostentatiously and finally push came to shove and the current (the action takes place in 2008-2010) family of the Earl of Trelawney lives in the huge castle in poverty.
And when I say poverty I am not kidding, it’s not only about the servants being gone. Farm ore than that, the castle falls into ruin, there is often no money for fuel, so no hot water. Dinners invariably are based on the cheapest minced meat, it is a dreary existence. We have here a good cast of characters, the elderly parents, still mired in the past glory and keeping up appearances. Kitto and Blaze, estranged siblings, Blaze had to move out and make her way in the world of finance once Kitto, the firstborn, inherited the castle. Kitto’s family: Jane, exhausted mother keeping everything together, with more desperation each day, Ambrose the arrogant and annoying firstborn, Toby, a dreamy and overly sensitive teenager and Arabella, energetic if eccentric daughter. There is also free-spirited and art-loving uncle Tony and solitary aunt Tuffy focused on her research into insects. Any good story needs a villain and here it comes in the form of Thomlinson Sleet, a ruthless hedge-fund manager with a grudge.
At one point both Blaze and Jane receive a letter from their former friend Anastasia, who is now dying and wants one of them to take care of her daughter. The arrival of Anastasia’s daughter, combined with Sleet’s assault and the 2008 financial crash will change everything for the Trelawney’s.
It is a decent story and the varied cast of characters makes it a good satire on both aristocracy and the sharks of the financial world. It reads well, even if I didn’t enjoy the romantic plot twist too much. It also poses a pretty obvious question: what makes a home. The family is hung up on saving the castle but faced with the realities of their ineptitude and financial crash they have to rethink what is important to them.
A light and enjoyable read, that in the long run does not leave too much of a mark. It is hard to point out what’s not working in this book, but it doesn’t carry the weight, and maybe it wasn’t supposed to. But then it also lacks the sharpness of a well-done satire.
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska