Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder
If you enjoy Persuasion, Downton Abbey, or even Gossip Girl, you’re going to want to pay attention to this review. Abby Grahame’s debut novel, Wentworth Hall, is a combination of all of the above and more. Filled with themes and story lines that involve the mixing of social classes, lies, deceit, unrequited/lost loves, gossip and more, this book is jam packed from start to finish.
The Darlington family is one of the most powerful families in all of England in the beginning of the twentieth-century. Under their massive estate, Wentworth Hall, all the intricate daily goings-on of all the family members coincide with each other and secret and scandal run amok. Maggie Darlington, the elder sister, has always been known to be more raucous and carefree, yet she is now much more reserved and secretive since returning from her year away. Although her secret is not revealed until the end of the novel, its effects on all the other members of the household are immediate, as the Darlington family fights to save its polished image as it begins to crack amongst whispers in the local media. A series of newspaper articles that are supposedly satirical on the surface seem to be all too similar to the actual lives of the Darlingtons, and soon everyone begins to speculate as to the fate of this famed family. Will they be able to uphold the noble status of their estate? What is Maggie’s secret?
Wentworth Hall can be summed up in one word – glamorous. While the hall itself isn’t, Grahame’s rich writing and fascinating storylines can 100% be described in this way. (For a perfect example of her glamorous writing style, check out the guest post she posted last week here on Austenprose) I’m still surprised that this is Grahame’s debut novel. Her understanding of the culture, most specifically the social aspects, is captivating. Similar to Persuasion and even Downton Abbey, Grahame explores the mixing of social classes using a love story as her plot device. Using the Edwardian Era as the backdrop for her sweeping drama allows her to use the upstairs/downstairs and master/servant mentality to clearly demonstrate her narrative style.
I really enjoyed all of characters different secrets and how they were revealed and unraveled, merging together in the end. It wasn’t difficult for me to figure out what each person was hiding, but I think it’ll be less obvious for the younger crowds that pick this up to read.
My major disappointment was the vagueness of the ending. This young adult novel builds and builds and does resolve itself, but with few details. It’s like going from point A to Z with nothing in the middle. It left me wondering if this was going to be part of a series. If it is in fact scheduled to be part of a series, then the vagueness sets up the plot for future books nicely. Despite this, the splendor of Grahame’s writing combined with the excitement of the plot made me into a big fan of Wentworth Hall. I humbly suggest that it becomes the next addition to your “to read” pile.
4 out of 5 Stars
Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame
Simon & Schuster (2012)
Hardcover (228) pages
Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association. When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.
© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose
My family is HUGE Downton Abbey fans-yes even my teenage boys-and Persuasion is second only to Sense and Sensibility for me so I’m sure I will very much enjoy reading Wentworth Hall. Congratulations Abby on your debut novel, I wish you much success!!
I can’t imagine anyone not liking Downton Abbey! It’s first and foremost an AWESOME show. My second reason is more personal; I studied film production in college, and find so much joy in the way that Downton Abbey is filmed and written and edited. The more technical aspects of the show make it definitely one of my favorites on TV.
I’ve been intrigued with this book since I read about it on this site last week. I am even more intrigued to hear it described as a young adult book–because it seems like there are more and more crossovers today. Will that ‘labeling’ cause me to pass up this book? Probably not, but it does make me stop and think. Not too long, though, because the comparisons to Downton are too much of a temptation!
Greta I’m really glad you brought up the whole crossover idea. I honestly have found myself reading more and more young adult labeled fiction books recently and find that they’re just as good, if not better than adult fiction. The Hunger Games trilogy, Across the Universe trilogy, The Chemical Garden trilogy, Percy Jackson series, and so many others have been granted space in my almost fully packed bookcases. I think these books are becoming crossovers in the age market because of how well they’re written firstly, but secondly they deal with topics that are relatable for young and old. While teens might read Wentworth Hall and fall in love with the romance factor, adults can appreciate the conflict of the mixing of the classes and failing reputation of the Darlington family.
I’m really glad you’re not letting the young adult marketing turn you away from Wentworth Hall. It would be a shame to disregard any book simply because of how it’s marketed!
Apologies for my diatribe, but you raised an excellent point I had to comment on! Hope you enjoy the book!
What is “Reflections of a Book Addict?”
I definitely won’t let the ‘young adult’ label stop me from reading something great, but I have to wonder if a ‘young adult’ label is actually a disservice to a book. Why not just put it out there as a book and let whoever is interested read it? It seems to me that with a label on it, the book is directed at a certain population, when others may enjoy it as well. It strikes me as odd, which all the time energy and certainly money spent on marketing, to place such restrictions on a book.
When I finished “The Book Thief,” one of the best books I’ve read in recent years, I was completely surprised to see ‘young adult’ on the back cover. My father had the same reaction when I sent it to him. It’s a fantastic book, and different populations can get their own messages out of it, so it’s appropriate for teens and adult readers–much like you pointed out wiht Wentworth Hall.
Great chatting with you!
“Reflections of a Book Addict” is my personal blog!
You pose yet another good question in the labeling market. I guess all books have to have some sort of “label” on them to effectively market them to someone. Who knew Twilight would blow up with female adults as much as it did? That certainly wasn’t marketed to them! I’m wondering if more adults are taking part in reading what their kids are more so than in the past and because of that they’re enjoying young adult novels?
It could also be the eBook! More and more people are buying novels on an eReader, knowing they don’t have to face someone to make a purchase. I know a ton of people who bought Fifty Shades of Grey on a digital device rather than in a store because of the embarrassment factor. Knowing they can read whatever they want without being judged may be the push they need to read books marketed for a younger generation.
I have heard SO many people say the same thing about The Book Thief. You’ve certainly forced me to move that book up on my to-read list.
Good chatting with you too!!
Sounds like I need to read this.
Yes, Suzan! Do it!
WENTWORTH HALL has been on my radar for a little while now. It does look like a wonderful read.
That cover isn’t too bad to look at either!
This book is on my TBR list–it just moved up to the top! Thanks for the great review, Kimberly.
I am stunned… How can you put Persuasion and Downton Abbey in the same phrase with Gossip Girl?!