It’s such a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for The Inheritance by Anne Allen, the seventh of the Guernsey Novels: available via Amazon in the UK and US, it’s published today for kindle (just £1.99/$2.99 until 15th April) and also available in paperback. My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be part of the tour, and to the author for my advance reading e-copy.
You might just already know that I’m an unashamed fan of Anne Allen’s wonderful story-telling – ever since reviewing the first two Guernsey novels, Dangerous Waters and Finding Mother, way back in 2014 (you’ll find those reviews here). I must mention that the first six books are available for kindle at 99p/99c apiece until 15th April – so it might be a good time to discover her writing for yourself, or to top up your existing collection – and you’ll find them all here. If you really twisted my arm, I’d confess that my favourite of them all so far was Echoes of Time – I’m always rather a pushover for a well-done timeslip – and you can read my review again (with links to the earlier books) here. But I think I might just have a new favourite…
1862 Young widow Eugénie faces an uncertain future in Guernsey when her husband dies at sea. A further tragedy brings her to the attention of Monsieur Victor Hugo, exiled on the island and living in his voluptuous house only yards away from Eugénie. Their meeting changes her life and she begins working for him as a copyist, forming a strong friendship with both Hugo and his mistress, Juliette Drouet.
2012 Doctor Tess Le Prevost, born in Guernsey, now living in Exeter, is shocked to inherit her Great-Aunt’s house on the island. As a child she listened to Aunt Doris’s tales of their ancestor, Eugénie, whose house this once was, and who, according to family myth, was particularly close to Hugo. Was he the father of her child? Tess doubts it, but inheriting the house allows her to make a fresh start in her beloved island.
Will she discover the truth about Eugénie and Hugo? A surprise find may hold the answer as Tess embraces new challenges which test her strength – and her heart.
I’ll admit I’m invariably drawn to a story with a dual timeline – but there is a real skill in making both stories equally engaging, and the shift from story to story relatively seamless. In this book, the author manages it with consummate ease. I also love a book that draws on real-life history, with a depth and breadth of research, but with characters who become as real as those in the contemporary story: should I ever visit Hauteville House (and this book made me yearn to do so) I’ll be looking for the small French writing desk and the letters between Victor Hugo and his copyist Eugénie, despite them being the product of the author’s imagination. Add in an immensely strong sense of place – oh my goodness, I still haven’t visited Guernsey other than through the author’s books and wonderful descriptions – and it’ll come as no surprise that I absolutely loved this book.
Just a brief mention of the stories? Eugénie’s is drawn from the pages of her journal: her early widowhood (such an excellent portrayal of sadness and loss), the dramatic chance meeting with Victor Hugo and his mistress Juliette Drouet, their developing strong friendship – with a frisson of infatuation and attraction when she becomes the writer’s copyist – and the choices that impact her life. Tess’s story is told in the third person – but has a first person feel – as we accompany her into her new life, moving to Guernsey into the house once owned by Eugénie, starting a new job, picking up former friendships and making new connections as she makes the house her future home. Both characters’ voices are strong and distinctive, and the stories are beautifully linked by a historical mystery, a chance discovery and a few minor touches of the paranormal.
I loved the characters in both threads, and not just Tess and Eugénie. Victor Hugo himself is wonderfully drawn – an immense presence, proud to be acknowledged as a great man with an edge of the bombastic, but a real warmth about him in the way he cares for both Juliette and Eugénie, his family relationships, and his generosity to the poor. In the modern thread I really enjoyed the friendships, and the developing romance, but also the inclusion of Tess’s parents and their relationship – an interesting counterpoint and addition to the main relationships of the stories.
I also really liked the way the themes carried across from story to story, helping to tie them together – as Tess explores Eugénie’s journals and discovers what happens in her life, it casts some shade over her present day relationship, and I thought that was particularly real and well-handled. And, as always, I very much liked the appearance of characters from the earlier books – although each Guernsey novel is entirely self-contained, I always rather look forward to meeting old friends in the course of each new story.
But enough of the analysis. This was a book I so thoroughly enjoyed – totally engrossed from beginning to end, living with its characters, hurting when they hurt (especially Eugénie), feeling their moments of joy and sadness. I’ve always enjoyed Anne Allen’s writing, but in this book I really thought it was stronger than ever – and the depth of her research into the historical story, enabling her to make it so totally real and believable, was particularly impressive and so perfectly used. This might well be one of my books of the year.
And a last minute addition to my post – here’s the video trailer:
With thanks to Anne and Rachel, I’m delighted to be able to offer the chance to and win a copy of The Inheritance and a notebook – open internationally, first prize a signed copy, second prize an e-copy. Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
Terms and Conditions Worldwide entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the author
Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children, and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby. Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.
By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, six having been published with the seventh, The Inheritance, published today.