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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Book Review: ‘Cross Stitch’ by Diana Gabaldon

(re) Read: March 2013

Enjoyment/Story Rating: 4.5/5.0

Style/Language Rating: 3.6/5.0

Note: As you can see there’s been a slight change to the way I rate things. This is due to the fact I did not think it entirely fair to lump the rating of the content/story in with the author’s ability to write/usage of language, because one might be extremely different from the other. If someone can think of a better, all-encompassing, word for the above categories please comment and let me know! I’ve got a lovely head-cold at the moment and my brain isn’t working properly…

Anyway, on with the review!

I have always loved this story, hence the reason the enjoyment rating is so high. It’s fast-paced, it’s sexy, it’s dangerous and it’s intriguing; all wrapped up into one novel. I must have read it at least four times, and every time I still get a lot of enjoyment out of it, wanting nothing more than to go into hibernation with my book and a never-ending flask of tea. I told you I have a habit of returning to things I’ve already read…

The story itself concerns a young woman, Claire Randall, dragged through a circle of standing stones in Scotland from 1946 to the world of the Jacobites in 1743. She is in a world torn by conflict, suspicion and clan-feuds. Having been a nurse in World War Two she is more than equipped to deal with the bloody wounds and carnage that face her as she struggles to return to the stone circle to get back to her own time. What she isn’t prepared for is the passion and attachment she will develop for a young Scotsman called Jamie Fraser; who offers who equal passion, love, protection and fierce loyalty. She is torn between two worlds; the one she has come from and the one she finds herself in; where she knows the impending disaster of Culloden field is looming…

In my opinion the book is definitely more aimed at those who enjoy a “romantic” novel, but it does have scope to be enjoyed by all. It is not a historical-novel per say, more bordering on fantasy with touches of reality here and there. The two main characters are well developed and their relationship is continually interesting as we see how the events around them effect themselves and each other. I enjoy that fact that even though Claire adapts to the world she is living in, she doesn’t lose the independence afforded her as a twentieth century woman. When you juxtapose her with the character of Jenny (Jamie’s sister), you can see that even though they are both strong and independent, there are major differences between them. Clair certainly has some fairly twentieth century ideas when it comes to eighteenth century discipline, the patriarchal society and also the “proper” place for a woman. The language is approachable – even when it’s written in broad scots! I attempted to read some of the lines written in a Scottish accent (i.e. “dinna fash yerself lassie”) but for some reason always ended up in an Irish one… oh well!

I think the reason I enjoy this book so much, is that whilst it is a romantic novel and does seem to make every woman fall in love with Jamie Fraser, it does also have the blood of the Jacobite Scotland, the historical touches, the fantasy/sci-fi aspect and also the many many plot twists and turns which leave the reader wanting more. This is the first book in Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series and I will be fairly shortly embarking on number two A Dragonfly in Amber. If you’ve read this novel; please let me know what you thought about it!

‘… da mi basia mille, diende centum,

dein mille altera, dein secunda centum…’ 

(Then let amorous kisses dwell,/On our lips, begin and tell/A Thousand, and a Hundred, score/A Hundred, and a Thousand more.’

Thanks,

B