Spanning four generations, The Midnight Rosesweeps from the glittering palaces of the great maharajas of India to the majestic stately homes of England, following the extraordinary life of a 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 rich Indian royalty. Becoming the princess’s official companion, Anahita accompanies her friend to England just before the outbreak of the Great War. There, she meets the young Donald Astbury – reluctant heir to the magnificent, remote Astbury Estate – and his scheming mother.
Eighty 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’s relieved that her latest role, playing a 1920s debutante, will take her away from the glare of publicity to the wilds of Dartmoor in England. 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.
From a new favourite to a well established one. I’ve loved everything Lucinda Riley has written – from Hothouse Flower (a Richard and Judy Book Club selection in 2011), to The Girl on the Cliff and The Light behind the Window. Her writing flows beautifully, the settings are always enthralling, the characters strongly drawn and the stories sweep you along effortlessly. Her latest book – The Midnight Rose – is better than ever.
At around 650 pages, this is a big read in more ways than one – it’s enormous in its scope too, crossing continents and sweeping backwards and forwards through time. I loved the Indian settings of Anahita’s childhood, the grinding poverty and the immense opulence of the court she joins through her lifelong friendship with Princess Indira. But the book isn’t all India – the girls come to England to attend school, where Anahita meets Donald Astbury and begins a relationship with him and his family that shapes her future life.
The modern story is initially a bit of a wrench – Rebecca Bradley, a film star involved in a troubled relationship, is on location on the Astbury estate making a feature film and escaping the gaze of the paparazzi. The house is now lived in by Lord Anthony and his very protective housekeeper. The two stories are drawn together beautifully though, through the arrival of Anahita’s grandson investigating his legacy and background.
This is a wonderful story, quite heartbreaking in parts, full of secrets and lies, and the pages just flew by. Anahita is a fantastic character, vividly drawn – she endures really tremendous hardship and self sacrifice. The real monster of the story is Lady Maud Astbury, whose capacity for cruelty and deception leaves you gasping. If you enjoy your reads in cinematic scale, with a depth of well-researched historical detail that brings the settings to vivid life, all accomplished in an easy to read and flowing style, you’re really going to love this one as much as I did. One of my books of the year – don’t miss it.
Lucinda Riley was born in Ireland and wrote her first book aged 24. Her novel Hothouse Flower (also called The Orchid House) was selected for the UK’s Richard and Judy Bookclub in 2011 and went on to sell over 2 million copies worldwide and become a New York Times Bestseller. Her second novel, The Girl on the Cliff, also made it onto The New York Times Bestseller list, in its first week, and her last book, The Light Behind the Window (also called The Lavender Garden) topped the German bestseller list for nine weeks. Lucinda’s books are translated into 25 languages and published in 36 countries. She lives with her husband and four children on the North Norfolk coast in England and in the South of France.
My thanks to netgalley and publishers Atria Books for my advance reading e-copy. The Midnight Rose will be published in Kindle and paperback editions on 16th January.