Book Review: Spoils of Time Trilogy – Penny Vincenzi

A couple of weeks ago I had no internet.

“No internet?!” I hear you cry… and I wasn’t even in a remote corner of the globe, I was in my home. The problem was that my broadband provider was Sky and they’re… not good… to say the least. Anyway, whilst I was in this wifi black hole I managed to read quite a lot of books, about five in the space of two weeks. Three of those books were the books that I’m going to review today; the three that make up the Spoils of Time Trilogy by Penny Vincenzi.

This series is made up of  the books ‘No Angel’, ‘Something Dangerous’ and ‘Into Temptation’ and it chronicles the lives of the Lytton Dynasty, focusing mostly around a lead female character by the name of Lady Celia Lytton née Beckenham. I think I will deal with the trilogy as a whole when discussing it, but will rate each book in turn at the end of my review.

The books begin in about 1908, the heyday of the Edwardian era and we are introduced to Lady Celia, who immediately comes across as strong-minded, determined, a little bit sly and a woman who certainly knows what she wants. Possibly a little bit too much of a modern sensibility for a woman living at such a time, but don’t forget that this was the time of the suffragettes and the Fabian society, so perhaps it is not out of place. She quickly entices and marries Oliver Lytton, a kind and fairly gentle soul who is the inheritor of a small but successful publishing company that goes by the family surname. Throughout the next half of the book Celia produces three children; Giles, and twins Venetia and Adele, before adopting a child from the slums of London who for the entirety books is known as Barty.

One thing that strikes me about Vincenzi books is that whilst her writing is rich in detail, her characters have a particular trait/fate that always comes forward, and is constantly represented by their actions. In that sense it is almost like a fairy tale. Celia, as mentioned before is extremely strong minded – almost to the point of bullying on several occasions – and this is contrasted to her long suffering husband. Her children also suffer at the hands of her own ambition, with Giles emerging as a shy and with low self-esteem. The twins fare a little better because they have each other and thus a lifelong bond is formed in the constant absence of their mother.

There are hundreds of characters in these three books, and more plot twists than I could possibly care to mention but that’s what makes them such an addictive read. The huge amounts of characters don’t detract from the story either, it’s not like Game of Thrones where you read about one character and then don’t hear about them again for twenty chapters. The books span the time period from the Edwardian era through to the late 1960s, and through that time (in no particular order!) we are shown the horrors of two World Wars through the eyes of the characters, the rise of the Fascists across Europe and how it affects all involved, the Wall Street crash, the roaring twenties, the depression, the change of British society as the 40’s came to a close and the 50’s began… it is really interesting to anyone who has a passing interest in social history. Of course it is fiction, but lots of the events that occur in the book are real and for someone who doesn’t wish to pursue their interest to academic texts would find this book fascinating.

Naturally there are issues with it, as afore mentioned characters can sometimes feel stereotyped or pigeonholed in order to fit the line of the story. I, for one, can’t help but feel sorry for Oliver and Giles but it becomes frustrating because they don’t seem to do anything about it. Another thing that frustrated me about these books was the ending. I won’t ruin it for you in case you wish to go off and read them, but suffice to say it comes to a rather abrupt halt, and one to which you think the publishers of Vincenzi were gasping for their novel, leaving her  little time to end it properly. If I were to pick a main criticism of these books it would be the end; after nearly 2000 pages of storyline, for it to end the way it does feels a little unfair.

Anyway, I really hope you do go and read the books. It’s a great summer read, but the books are quite big so if you’ve got an e-reader I suggest you get it on there! It’s a wonderful escape into the first half of the 20th century, a century so rich in history and intrigue it’s impossible to not be excited about it. And Vincenzi does do it justice; her plot lines fit wonderfully, and her characters don’t appear to jar against the edges of the time to which their bound. Well worth a read if you fancy something light, but not too light!

Covers and Ratings: (apologies the covers are different sizes – blame amazon!)

 Rating: 3.8/5.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Rating: 4.2/5.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Rating: 3.6/5.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time!

B

XO

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The Kingmaker’s Daughter – Philippa Gregory

Enjoyment/Story Rating: 3.0/5.0

Style/Language Rating: 2.8/5.0

 

Okay, well this another classic Philippa Gregory story, telling the tale of Anne Neville; daughter of the Earl of Warwick, the “kingmaker” of the late Plantagenet era. It’s a good tale if all you want is a simple story of a vaguely historical nature, but that is all it seems to provide. I was expected something a bit more, because I’d been told that it was better than her other recent novels, but I found it sitting quite comfortable alongside them in terms of mediocrity.

Now don’t get me wrong, Philippa Gregory has written some really great books, I loved her Tudor Series, but the things she’s written lately seem to just have been the same story and all she’s done is edited the names before sending the book to the publishers – it seems one dimensional and fairly flat with little new to offer regular Gregory readers. I found myself skipping pages as I got bored with the repetitive nature of the style, diving back in again when I stumbled across something that it felt like I hadn’t read before.

I would recommend this if you like comfortable historical novels and just want a light and easy read. Otherwise, if you want better historical fiction, go for Gregory’s earlier novels, in my opinion they are far superior to her later works.

 

B

XO

Book Review: ’50 Shades of Grey’ by E.L James

Rating: 2.3/5.0

Read: March 2013

I feel I am very behind the times in reviewing this book, the reason being that I have put off reading it for so long, having heard nothing but negativity about it. I have to say, this review will be much of the same I’m afraid. I managed to read it in about three hours, due to the ease and simplicity of the text and also the general lack of storyline, but more of that later.

The first thing that struck me, and it’s really hard to overlook with the book, is the complete lack of character in Ana, the protagonist. At the beginning she has a small bit of personality, in that she challenges some of Grey’s demands, but that quickly disappears when she realises how good he is in bed. I have had mixed responses to this lack of character, some people find it equally annoying, others say that it allows women the world over to imagine themselves in the position of Ana and therefore makes the text all the more exhilarating. I have to say that I agree with the first, but at the same time I applaud the fact that this book allowed women the world over (the book has sold 65 million copies and been translated into 37 languages) to reconnect with their sexy side and it got people talking about sex, which can only be a good thing.

The literature itself though, is not great, the sentences are clumsy and repetitive, and I soon found myself getting bored with the clunky way that James articulated her characters and plot line. The storyline, apart from being fairly predictable, did very little for me and I found myself reading it intensely quickly. The heroine seems to have little to say for herself, another than repetitions of the words ‘oh crap!’ or references to her inner goddess, making her seem intensely flat and two-dimensional.

Here, I could really go to town on the ins and outs of the text itself, testing just truly how bad it is in a written form, but I feel that would be a little bit harsh. It is not a good book, in my opinion, but as I mentioned before I do applaud the fact that it has got people talking about sex. Lots of the world’s problems (teen pregnancy, sexual assault etc) stem somewhat from lack of information, and the oppression of sexual thoughts and desires. If people now feel that they can talk about such things without feeling ashamed, well I feel that that must be a step in the right direction.

Book Review: ‘The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous’ by Jilly Cooper

Rating: 3.7/5.0

Read: March 2013

Yes, I read chick lit too. And, unlike some people who claim to like Literature, I am not ashamed to admit it. This is the second Jilly Cooper novel I have read and both have been extremely enjoyable. A little silly in a lot of places, but still interesting to read and very addictive!

The novel begins with the introduction of Lysander Hawkley, the horse made protagonist with Adonis-like good-looks and the ability to attract women as if he were a magnet. Underneath this, however, the reader quickly comes to realise that he is dealing with loss of his own and is also hopelessly naive, thus open to the manipulations of others. His best friend soon realises his talents for attracting women, and the jealousy this causes their husbands, and so sets up a business around this skill; having women hire Lysander’s services for as long as it takes to get their erring husbands back.

Lysander goes through women as if it they were water, falling in love with each of them in turn, only to have his heart broken when he realises he just a tool in getting their husbands back, or that the women themselves are not quite who they seem. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, and I couldn’t begin to some up the ins and outs of the plot because it is quite a long book (738 pages). One thing that does, however, constantly annoy me with the novel is that the women throughout are trying to get back husbands that made them feel awful. Okay, so I agree there must be something very satisfactory about seeing a straying boyfriend or husband come running back once you’re a size 10 and fabulous again, but the indignant part of me asks; would you take him back? I think I’d kick him to the curb to be honest. Another reason this novel didn’t score a 4 or higher was because, whilst some of Cooper’s characters are well developed, others are fairly two dimensional and flat, behaving the same in every situation presented to them.

On the whole though, this was a very enjoyable read, it made me laugh and kept me entertained for 3 or 4 days. Definitely worth a go if you’re in between serious texts, or are just looking for something fun to read!