Book Review: Wentworth Hall, Abby Grahame

| 15 January , 2013 | Reply

The year is 1912 and Maggie Darlington has just returned for a trip abroad to her family home of Wentworth Hall, only now it appears she is an entirely different person. No longer the spirited and confiding girl she once was, her family would be remiss to notice the change in her demeanour—especially Maggie’s younger sister, Lila, who has waited a whole year to see her.

Yet, Maggie appears to want nothing to do with Lila or anything from her old life.

Her parents decide it’s time for Maggie to start looking for a husband; fortunately, the Darlington’s have two new houseguests, and one of them is a handsome, soon-to-be heir.

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame is a tale of family drama, secrets and romance, told through multiple points of view.

Maggie Darlington is the eldest daughter of Lord and Lady Darlington, renowned for her beauty, while her sister Lila often feels like a shadow hovering in the background and unable to be seen. Lila feels the distance her sister keeps most keenly and is left to wonder what happened to make Maggie so cold?

Nora, the girls’ maid, is a servant working towards making a life for herself outside of Wentworth Hall; she desires more than her current position—even if it does offer her a healthy dose of gossip. And with the arrival of heirs, Teddy and Jessica Fitzhugh, she knows there is bound to be a lot to talk about.

They are not the only arrivals. Therese is the French nanny of baby James, the newest Darlington; she soon befriends Michael, a young groom, who has worked on the estate for as long as he can remember.

And when a scandalous satire appears in the newspaper closely mimicking the life of the Darlingtons, everyone starts looking over their shoulders wondering who the author is and if their secrets will be the next to be revealed.

While I enjoyed following most of the characters stories, I found that the interjections of newspaper satires lacked the humour of say, Julia Quinn’s Lady Whistledown series, or the punch of a Gossip Girl entry, and perhaps the story might have been stronger if it focused less on creating a ‘mystery’ and more on developing each individual’s journey.

The idea of having multiple POV’s to really fill out a house and make it appear alive with gossip and scandal was a good move for this type of story, but there were times when the narrative felt too brief that in reading it, it was like I was only skimming the surface of something deeper.

That isn’t to say it still wasn’t interesting. The lifestyles of the elite in any era will always be a draw for many people, and in Wentworth Hall, readers are given a glimpse into the world of the Darlingtons and the people who work for them. It shows the constraints of a changing society, the speed to which gossip spreads and the value of a reputation… Under the roof of Wentworth Hall nothing is secret for long.

Available now: Simon & Schuster RRP$16.99


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