The Summer Country
By Lauren Willig
Author Website: laurenwillig(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
The New York Times bestselling historical novelist delivers her biggest, boldest, and most ambitious novel yet—a sweeping, dramatic Victorian epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.
1854. From Bristol to Barbados. . . .
Emily Dawson has always been the poor cousin in a prosperous merchant clan—merely a vicar’s daughter, and a reform-minded vicar’s daughter, at that. Everyone knows that the family’s lucrative shipping business will go to her cousin, Adam, one day. But when her grandfather dies, Emily receives an unexpected inheritance: Peverills, a sugar plantation in Barbados—a plantation her grandfather never told anyone he owned.
When Emily accompanies her cousin and his new wife to Barbados, she finds Peverills a burnt-out shell, reduced to ruins in 1816, when a rising of enslaved people sent the island up in flames. Rumors swirl around the derelict plantation; people whisper of ghosts.
Why would her practical-minded grandfather leave her a property in ruins? Why are the neighboring plantation owners, the Davenants, so eager to acquire Peverills—so eager that they invite Emily and her cousins to stay with them indefinitely? Emily finds herself bewitched by the beauty of the island even as she’s drawn into the personalities and politics of forty years before: a tangled history of clandestine love, heartbreaking betrayal, and a bold bid for freedom.
When family secrets begin to unravel and the harsh truth of history becomes more and more plain, Emily must challenge everything she thought she knew about her family, their legacy . . . and herself. (Goodreads)
In The Summer Country, author Lauren Willig treats readers to an epic family saga of family secrets, betrayal, forbidden love, and the British Colonial class system. Is one’s life a matter of fate or free will?
Told in a dual timeline narrative, readers meet vicar’s daughter Emily, her cousin Adam, and his wife Laura as they travel to Barbados in 1854 where Emily inherits the burned out sugar plantation Peverills, a property no one knew her grandfather even owned. Why would shipping magnate Johnathan Fenty leave this neglected, useless property to Emily? Emily soon finds the owners of the neighboring plantation keenly interested in obtaining the land for themselves and a noble black doctor named Nathaniel whom she cannot help but be drawn to. The opposing narrative takes place in 1812 when young Charles Davenport returns to Peverills from England upon his father’s death. There he finds a different world from what he is accustomed rife with sibling rivalry, a neighbor in need, and an unexpected love affair with a slave named Jenny.
Willig is a masterful storyteller, seamlessly weaving the narratives, sometimes in unanticipated ways, to make a cohesive, compelling read. Often in the case of dual narratives, one timeline suffers, but here both are equally strong with well developed characters and plotting. The prose is lovely and feels right for the periods represented, providing a lyric background for the action. The tale is obviously well researched and renders a thorough look at historical events without coming across as a dry chronicle of events. The pace is steady yet unhurried.
The Summer Country is quality historical fiction with a heavy dose of romance. I greatly enjoyed this escape to exotic Barbados. Recommended.