Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
*Beware of mild spoilers*
When May came that year in Rutherford, it was more beautiful than anyone could ever remember. More beautiful, and more terrible…
From inside their sprawling estate of Rutherford Park, the Cavendish family had a privileged perspective of the world. On the first morning in May, 1915, with a splendid view that reached across the gardens to the Vale of York, nothing seemed lovelier or less threatening. And yet…
At the risk of undoing the Cavendish name with scandal, William and Octavia Cavendish have been living a lie, maintaining a marriage out of duty rather than passion. But when their son Harry joins the Royal Flying Corps in France, the Cavendish family are forced to face the unavoidable truths about themselves, the society in which they thrive, and the secrets they can no longer bear.
In the wake of a terrible war, the emotional shifts between a husband and a wife, a wife and her lover, and a mother and her children, will shake the very foundation of the Cavendish family, and change the uniquely vulnerable lives of all who reside at Rutherford Park. (Amazon.com)
The Wild Dark Flowers is the second book in the Rutherford Park series, but, having not read the first, I thought it read just fine as a standalone. It provides a snapshot of the life of an English aristocratic family and their staff in the midst of World War I.
The Cavendish household is having a hard time. Many members of their staff have joined the war effort leaving the household shorthanded. Their horses have been requisitioned by the army. Staff members discover the true horrors of life on the front lines, and the sweethearts they left behind are worried and distracted. The housekeeper becomes more and more eccentric and hateful to her mistress and the staff. The youngest daughter wants to volunteer at the hospital (how unseemly). The son, a fighter pilot, is injured in the line of duty. The older daughter is recovering from the scandal of an elopement gone wrong. Octavia, the wife and mother, is mourning the end of an affair and the stifling circumstances of her sex and station. The American, the object of Octavia’s affection, continues to write to her and wants her back. William finds it hard to return to life as normal after his wife’s betrayal, and he is resistant to the world changing around him.
And the world is indeed changing. Class barriers are coming down. What is, and is not, “appropriate” is in flux. The story seems to revolve around change: how hard it is, the inevitability of it, the senseless loss of war, and the truth that life continues on despite it all.
Ms. Cooke provides the reader with a descriptive landscape to inhabit, whether it be the lush spring in York or the muddy, bloody war front lines in France. However, at times the descriptions are a bit drawn out and become a little tedious. The story constantly switches from one scene (and location) to another, which I enjoyed because it moved the story along, but it did make things a bit choppy. The characters are well drawn, but the reader only gets a glimpse at some of them. I have a feeling they are featured more prominently in the previous installment.
I enjoyed this Edwardian tale, and would recommend it to those who have read the first Rutherford Park novel, fans of the period, and, it must be said, to Downton Abbey enthusiasts.