The first thing A Reader's Respite noticed about Rebecca Dean's new novel, Palace Circle, was that the woman on the cover appears to have her head (and all other pertinent body parts) intact.
Plus one on the scoreboard.
The next thing A Reader's Respite noticed was the big, obnoxious blurb on the cover.
Minus one on the scoreboard.
So now that we're back to a level playing field, it all comes down to what resides in between the front and back cover of the book.
Palace Circle is a historical novel trying very, very hard to be a historical family saga and falling short of this goal. Spanning the years just prior to WWI all the way through to WWII, the novel originally centers on Delia Chandler, a young Southern belle who marries minor British aristrocracy.
Delia is a bit of a caricature, a headstong young belle with a streak of independence and the ability to ride tempermental horses as good as a man. It is, of course, this wild nature that attracts Lord Ivor Conisborough who naturally wants to marry her, then tame her wild ways so she won't be an embarassment at Court.
You can see where this is going, right?
We were ready to forgive the cliches as the novel progressed because, frankly, the writing is pretty darned good. Delia and Ivor's marriage proved interesting as time went on and the eruption of WWI added an interesting twist.
But just as we were becoming downright interested, someone hit the fast forward button, the years flew by in a few pages and the story flopped to Delia's daughter's point of view. This is where the family-saga-wannabe comes into play.
At only 405 pages, Palace Circle simply isn't long enough to develop each generation's characters. One wants to care about the characters, but with no real time to get to know and understand them it just ain't happening. Which is a shame because the novel has a solid premise and has highly entertaining moments with some very recognizable historical personages. (A Reader's Respite has a thing for Wallis Simpson.)
The Duchess of Windsor: Misunderstood Lovebird or Raging Bitch? Either way, we love her.Despite it's flaws, if you love this period of history, the novel is worth your time. Just don't expect a saga on the level of The Thorn Birds (the family saga by which all other sagas are measured, in our considered opinion).
What about you? Want to give this one a try? Leave us a comment saying so and on July 16th, we'll draw one random winner! (International entrants always welcome).
More reviews worth noting:
Debbie's World of Books
Fyrefly's Book Blog
The Literate Housewife Review
Devourer of Books
Pudgy Penguin Perusals
Reading and Ruminations
The Burton Review