The Echo of Twilight
By Judith Kinghorn
Author Website: http://www.judithkinghornwriter.com
In 1914, despite the clouds of war threatening Europe, Pearl Gibson’s future is bright. She has secured a position as a lady’s maid to a wealthy Northumberland aristocrat, a job that will win her not only respect but an opportunity to travel and live in luxury. Her new life at Lady Ottoline Campbell’s Scottish summer estate is a whirlwind of intrigue and glamour, scandals and confidences and surprisingly, a strange but intimate friendship with her employer.
But when violence erupts in Europe, Pearl and Ottoline’s world is irrevocably changed. As the men in their lives are called to the front lines, leaving them behind to anxiously brace for bad news, Pearl realizes she must share one final secret with her mistress a secret that will bind them together forever….(Goodreads)
The Echo of Twilight tells the story of ambitious ladies maid Pearl Gibson and her unconventional employer Lady Ottoline Campbell. The book begins with the world on edge anticipating the breakout of World War I. What ensues is a tale of two women whose secrets intertwine and lives are forever altered even long after the war has ended.
I was excited to read The Echo of Twilight as the cover blurb sounded like it would be right up my alley. I adore historical fiction and enjoy losing myself in another time. Judith Kinghorn definitely does a great job of creating a sense of place. I felt like I was right there with Pearl in England and Scotland. The writing style felt true to the period. However, I do think there were too many liberties taken with Ottoline’s behavior and attitudes. I seriously doubt that an aristocrat would introduce her maid to other members of the upper crust and throw a party for her like she belonged in the drawing room. Unconventionality aside, this rang completely false.
We are introduced to a handful of endearing characters. Pearl is relatable and a reliable narrator. I truly felt her loneliness and pain in wanting someplace to belong. I did not get her borderline obsession with not growing up to be like her mother. Had she actually known her mother I would have understood better. I found Ottoline and her motivations fascinating and an interesting portrayal of someone caught in a life where she does not quite fit in. Suffering from depression, anxiety, boredom, and loneliness, her thoughts and actions kept me reading. Ottoline’s cousin Ralph played in integral role in the story, and he was appealing. Though not featured much, Ottoline’s sensitive son Billy was one of my favorite characters. I wish he had played a bigger role. Butler Rodney Watts and cook Mrs. Lister added some much needed humanity to the “downstairs” life.
The book was very much about love in all forms – friendship, romantic, familial, especially maternal. Romance is where this book failed for me. Ralph and Pearl’s initial meeting (and her birthday party) provided a nice initial spark between the two, but as things progressed, I did not feel any chemistry between them and their relationship was unconvincing. The most compelling thing about the story was Pearl and Ottoline’s complicated and ever evolving relationship. The war and its repercussions were constant companions to all of the characters. There was great emphasis placed on how the war took its toll on everyone, the changing roles for women, and the blurring of the lines between society stations. All of these things helped give the story some bulk and move it along. However, the pace was never quick and became even more sluggish in the section set after the war. Also, I found the ending wrapped up a little too tidily.
Overall, The Echo of Twilight was worth reading. I recommend it to fans of World War I historical fiction.