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The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell

I’m a massive fan of Hannah Richell’s books and thought her previous novels, Secrets of the Tides and The Shadow Year, were first-rate. She has just released her third novel, The Peacock Summer, and I think it is even better than her previous novels, and it is now my favourite book for 2018!

The story centres on two women, Lillian and her granddaughter Maggie, and alternates between two summers that are decades apart. Lillian is only twenty-six but already feels like an old woman. She is married to a wealthy widower, Charles Oberon, but her marriage has not turned out like she thought it would. Instead of feeling loved and treasured, she feels like she is just another beautiful possession among the many that Charles has gathered with the walls of Cloudesley, their manor house. But she is a devoted step-mother to Albie and has promised him she will stay despite Charles moods, and then there is the care that Charles pays for her sister Helena, who was injured during the war. Lillian accepts this is now her life, and there is no way out of it.

But then Charles commissions artist Jack Fincher to do an extraordinary artwork in their home, and he commits to staying with them for the summer. Jack’s visit inspires passions Lillian could never have thought possible, and her world is completely turned on its head.

Fast forward to the modern day, and Lillian is now an old woman living in the crumbling Cloudesley manor house, and past and present are starting to converge in her mind. Her granddaughter, Maggie, returns from Australia to look after her after she becomes ill and ends up in hospital. Maggie has been away for a year, deliberately running away from a broken relationship and much more, a situation badly handled in every way. She is forced to face up to the heartbreak she has caused. But she is determined to help her grandmother, who has always been there for her, raising her as her own from an early age. But Cloudesley is falling apart, there is no money, so how can Maggie keep her promise to her grandmother of staying in the house, rather than going to a rest home?

The chapters flow effortlessly between the young and beautifully Lillian caught in an unhappy marriage and drawn to the enigmatic Jack – and Maggie’s return as a twenty-six-year-old to care for her as an older woman. As an old woman, Lillian feels she needs her gloves, decades earlier she is a young woman searching for a missing glove. The yellow dress worn by Lillian is also worn by Maggie in different decades and circumstances. Small motifs link the tapestry of this book, as it slides back and forth in time.

The Peacock Summer is a stunning book; it brims with beauty and passion, art and love – it is heartbreakingly wonderful. I loved it!

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Hachette, RRP $34.99