Ok, I know it’s only a month since I last featured Anne Allen’s Guernsey Novels – but when I saw that the seventh novel, The Inheritance, was one year old and that Kelly at #LoveBooksTours was organising a blog tour, I just couldn’t resist. To celebrate the book’s birthday, all seven books in The Guernsey Novel series will only be £1.99 on Kindle for a limited time – what better time to complete your collection?
The Inheritance is such a special book. Although I’ve enjoyed the whole series (all readable as standalones), I’d always said that my favourite was Echoes of Time – a really well-done timeslip – and you’ll find my review again here. But when I reviewed this one, back in April last year, I had to confess to a new favourite…
Let’s take a closer look…
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.
And here’s my review, just one more time…
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 do you know what? It most certainly was, and thoroughly deserved its inclusion in my 2019 Books of the Year list.
About the author
Anne was born in Rugby to a Welsh father and an English mother. As a result, she spent many summers with her Welsh grandparents in Anglesey and learned to love the sea. Now she is based in Devon to be near her daughter and two small grandchildren. Her restless spirit has meant many moves, the longest stay being 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. Her younger son is based in London – ideal for city breaks.
By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist who long had a desire to write and Dangerous Waters, her first novel, was published in 2012. It was awarded Silver(Adult Fiction) in TheWishingShelfAwards 2012. Since then she has published six more books in The Guernsey Novels series; Finding Mother, Guernsey Retreat, The Family Divided, Echoes of Time – winner of The Diamond Book Award 2017, a finalist in Readersfavorite awards and granted a ChillWithABookAward – The Betrayal, and The Inheritance (published April 2019).