by Barbara Erskine
2.5 - 3 Stars
ARC from amazon vine.
Ken and Zoe have moved from London to rural Suffolk to a set of barn conversions on the river Deben, so that Ken can have more time with his boat. Zoe wasn't too keen on the move, she isn't that interested in sailing but hasn't told her husband until long after they've moved and the deed is done.
There are three barns on their complex, along with The Old Forge, which once belonged to the Victorian hall that is nearby, now converted into luxury apartments. Ken and Zoe have The Old Barn, next to them we have Rosemary and Steve in the one next door, Rosemary a keen crusader to get a footpath reinstated through Dead Man's Field. The Summer Barn is a holiday home for the Watts' family and their wild children. Leo, a blacksmith scarred from an accident now lives at the Old Forge, though he is no longer working as one.
Soon after they move, Zoe hears noises and sees a viking ship sailing up the river quite frequently. At first she thinks it's part of some sort of re-enactment or regatta, but there isn't one and she finds a picture of the ship in a Victorian book.
As well as the modern era, we have intertwined stories from the Victorian and Anglo-Saxon times as well.
I'd consider myself a fan of Barbara Erskine; I've read all of her other books and loved them. This one, not so much. There are so many POV shifts, sometimes within the same paragraph, never mind the same chapter, that you're hard pressed to wonder whose opinion you should be feeling at that time.
In the Victorian timeline we have POVs from Daniel, the blackmsith, his wife Susan, Lady Emily from the Hall, her husband Henry, Susan's sister Molly to name a few, all this within a few pages! The blurb on the back said about the Victorian timeline "a case of forbidden love". It wasn't forbidden love, it wasn't love at all! The blacksmith was forced into it with Lady Emily because she threatened to have him and his wife sacked if he didn't do it. That doesn't sound like any sort of love to me. There was even a scene between Daniel and Lady Emily that was supposed to be passionate and sexy. Sorry, being coerced into it wasn't sexy at all.
There were so many characters having affairs in this book that it became laughable rather than dramatic, more like a farce than a novel. The dialogue is stiff and stilted. How many modern people in real life speak without contractions?
So was there anything I liked about the book? Yes, I loved the part set in Anglo-Saxon times, Edith was one of the more sympathetic characters and I really liked her. But that was the part we got to see least. You were just getting into the scene and bam! we're back to the present, or back to the Victorians.
I'm disappointed. It reads almost as if someone else has written this under the author's name.
Reviewed by Annette Gisby, author of The Chosen.