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