This book takes place in two timelines: there’s the story of Evelyn Aubrey, a young English woman who marries a fellow writer, the famous William Aubrey, just before the start of the 20th century. Evelyn’s marriage is idyllic at first, but it quickly turns dark, culminating in her disappearance and presumed death in 1906, for which her husband was suspected of (though never charged with) her murder. Then, in 2006, Evelyn’s descendent Abby, a young woman in her early 30s living in the US, begins trying to explore her own little-know family history — the family of the father she never knew — in an attempt to get a handle on her own life. Inevitably, the storylines converge as Abby seeks the real story of what happened to Evelyn.
Every so often I come across a book that seems like it’s so perfectly crafted to fit my particular interests that it should be my favourite book of the year before I’ve even read it. Woman novelist overshadowed and possibly murdered by her novelist husband? Check! Dysfunctional late-Victorian marriage? Check! Search for a missing journal and elusive family history, including a stay in a moldering English manor house? Check! Check! Check!
And yet, the experience of reading this book was … just okay. I enjoyed it well enough, but it wasn’t hard to put down, and I don’t think it’ll linger with me long after I’ve read it, and I don’t know why that was. It’s an intriguing setup and the characters are engaging enough … it just didn’t grab me as hard as I wanted it to. Liked it but didn’t love it … but I certainly liked it enough to encourage anyone else to give it a try if the premise sounds interesting to you.