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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good first novel
I enjoyed this book. I like Kirsty Wark's journalism and critical work very much, but journalists and critics don't always make good novelists by any means. However, Kirsty Wark can write very well and this, her first novel, is a thoughtful and involving book.

The story is of two women, Elizabeth Pringle who dies at the age of over ninety, leaving her house...
Published 9 months ago by Sid Nuncius

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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars On Newsnight Tonight: Mills and Boon Shocker
Picking up this novel by Kirsty Wark my expectations were quite high. A book from the pen of the presenter of Newsnight and The Review Show would surely be intelligent, original and sharp-witted. Certainly the foundations on which the story is based with its emphasis on strong women characters spanning three generations, a focus on the richness and complexity of what...
Published 9 months ago by Eugene Onegin


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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good first novel, 19 Mar 2014
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle (Hardcover)
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I enjoyed this book. I like Kirsty Wark's journalism and critical work very much, but journalists and critics don't always make good novelists by any means. However, Kirsty Wark can write very well and this, her first novel, is a thoughtful and involving book.

The story is of two women, Elizabeth Pringle who dies at the age of over ninety, leaving her house on Arran to Martha Morrison, a Glasgow-based journalist. We get Elizabeth's story told in the first person in her written journal intercut with Martha's as a third person narrative. The device works very well and Wark handles both her characters and the pace of the narrative with real skill, I think. I found both women very believable and I enjoyed their stories. Wark generates a very good sense of place in Arran, and Elizabeth's history is a very involving account of a life and of the island itself. With Martha, one of the dominant elements is the growing dementia of her mother, and this is also portrayed very well indeed. Perhaps the romantic elements of the tale are a little predictable, as is the Fraught Urban Existence Redeemed By Rural Life aspect, but it is a beguiling and humane story nonetheless.

The prose is good, although a little prone to over-writing, I think. Wark is very keen on adjectives and similes which, especially in Elizabeth's personal narrative are at times a little unconvincing. As an example, "I…stumbled over the verge, sending the fir cones that I had collected for kindling rolling all over the road like a swarm of giant insects." Those giant insects are a novelist's creation which don't really belong in a personal journal, and there are a lot of examples of that. She does come up with some very incisive phrases, though, like dementia being an illness that "steals people's story out of themselves," and overall I enjoyed her style.

Kirsty Wark has written a sensitive and tender story (which even tends toward the sentimental in places). I can recommend this, and I look forward to her next novel.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars On Newsnight Tonight: Mills and Boon Shocker, 20 Mar 2014
By 
Eugene Onegin (Lincoln England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle (Hardcover)
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Picking up this novel by Kirsty Wark my expectations were quite high. A book from the pen of the presenter of Newsnight and The Review Show would surely be intelligent, original and sharp-witted. Certainly the foundations on which the story is based with its emphasis on strong women characters spanning three generations, a focus on the richness and complexity of what initially appear ordinary lives and a location in the atmospheric setting of the Isle of Arran bode well. The plot itself concerns a young woman Martha whose mother is bequeathed a house on Arran out of the blue and her subsequent efforts to learn more about the mystery benefactor’s life, one Elizabeth Pringle, and its connections to her own. So far, so good-but the way Wark develops these initially promising beginnings is a considerable disappointment. One of the biggest problems is her characterization or rather the lack of it. None of the main protagonists ever become more than vehicles of the plot or take on a life of their own as they do in great works of fiction. Then there is the story itself told in chapters alternating between Elizabeth and Martha’s lives which is ridiculously neat with every event following on seamlessly aided by convenient coincidences and each main character ending up with who they should end up with. Which brings me to my biggest complaint about the book-Wark wants demonstrate than behind the mask of a conventional and conservative old lady can often lurk great passion both intellectual and sexual-a perceptive observation, but conveyed in some of the least convincing and gushing prose I have read in many years. Some of the love scenes are as sugary as Mills and Boon and the imagery truly cringe worthy. One reads on expecting to find more depth of observation and more interesting developments, but it never comes and there is no escaping the fact that one would have expected much more of a book from this woman.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and believable, 21 Mar 2014
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I'm probably not the target audience for this book, it is written from the point of view of two women and I might be considered to be too grumpy and male to appreciate it. Nevertheless, it proved a great companion on a flight to America and I was immersed in the recent history and atmosphere of Arran as well as being moved by elements in the story. Definitely worth a look.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply satisfying novel., 26 Jun 2014
By 
G. M. Nuttall (Lancashire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle (Hardcover)
A story about love and lost opportunities. It slowly draws you in to the characters lives. Martha's story highlighting the differences with Elizabeth's generation, who kept their secrets, usually taking them to the grave. Sadly Elizabeth didn't have the ability to grab her second chance at happiness, when it came. Elizabeth is a strong character, her secret well hidden and I liked her more and more as the story deepened. The household chores forgotten while I finished the book, leaving me with a lump in my throat.

A novel I highly recomend. Kirsty Wark is gifted at descriptive writing with a strong love of Arran that leaves the reader wanting to visit the island.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent writing and beautiful story, 16 April 2014
By 
Welsh Annie (Wetherby) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle (Hardcover)
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I’m always a little wary of books written by people in the public eye – Kirsty Wark is far more familiar as a broadcaster – but having heard the author talking about the book in a number of radio interviews I was intrigued by the story and wanted to try it. My expectations weren’t particularly high at the start – I was rather expecting it to be a little dry and scholarly – but within a few pages I was swept up by the excellent writing and the beautiful story.

The book is set in two time frames, and the stories alternate. Elizabeth Pringle’s story – told through her journal – begins at the time of the First World War, when she moves with her mother from their farm to a house called Holmlea in Lamlash on the Isle of Arran. We follow Elizabeth’s life, her relationship with her mother and their friend the Duchess of Montrose, her passion for gardening – and relationships built, lost and continuing. In later life she becomes a solitary figure, with two firm friends – Niall, an architect who shares her passion for gardening, and Saul, a Buddhist monk on Holy Isle. Just before her death, she writes a letter to a stranger – a young girl she had watched pushing her baby in a pram over 30 years ago, and who had asked her to let her know if she ever planned to leave her home.

Anna, the young girl then pushing the pram, now has dementia and it falls to Martha – then the baby – to take up the legacy and discover Elizabeth’s secrets, resolving some of her own family issues along the way.

There were so many things I loved about this book. The setting is quite wonderful, drawn in great detail by someone who clearly loves the Isle of Arran and knows it well. Descriptions feature heavily in this book – I loved the detail about Holmlea, and the way in which everything in it revealed a little more about Elizabeth herself. Elizabeth’s story is quite engrossing – through her life, we share her passions and friendships, and finally share her one big secret that shaped her life. The modern story is also strong – we see Martha picking up Elizabeth’s friendships with Niall and Saul, and the difficulties of her fraught relationship with her sister Susie and the handling of her mother’s dementia were beautifully handled. I really like the way in which the book focuses on the issues in women’s lives, their universality, but the way in which the changing times have affected how they are handled.

I’ve read other reviews of this book, implying that the author’s transition from journalism to story-telling might not have been entirely successful: I really don’t agree, I enjoyed the writing and thought it was an excellent flowing story, quite captivating, and perfectly paced. Another review recommended it to anyone who liked Maggie O’Farrell – high praise indeed, and the comparison really works for me. Yes, I really liked it that much – do give it a try.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Nicely done, 30 Oct 2014
[This book was provided to me for no cost by the publisher, Two Roads, aided by Bookbridgr. I thank them, for both hardcopy and not sending Kirsty Wark to my home to find out why I hadn't got this reviewed yet.]

The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle is the debut novel of the journalist and broadcaster Kirsty Wark (you'd have heard of her if you were British). She is intelligent, classy, and a generally all round good egg, which is why I requested it in the first place. She also had a cameo in the Doctor Who episode "The Poison Sky' according to Wikipedia, which tells you how highly she is regarded.

When 93-year-old Elizabeth Pringle dies, she leaves her house and everything in it to Anna, the woman who pushed a note through her door 30 years earlier asking if Elizabeth would be interested in selling. TIt is Martha, Anna's daughter, who takes shocked custody of the place; the house is an untold story, one which will forever remain so thanks to Anna's Alzheimers.

The book alternates between Martha - struggling with her mother, her sister, and this new property, the gift of a woman she's never met - and Elizabeth's memoir, the story of a long life in a small place she's desperate to set down before she becomes unable to. There is a lovely parallel in the unfolding of Elizabeth's story and Martha's gradual acquaintance with her through the Arran islanders who knew her, small details cropping up in Martha's chapters to be explained in Elizabeth's.

As you might expect from somebody of Wark's calibre, the writing is pretty good. There's the odd clunky paragraph, usually speech related, but the prose has a lovely subtlety to it which only becomes apparent when you mentally apply a Scottish accent. In the right vocal chords, I imagine this would be an excellent audio book. It's certainly something which should be read for long, uninterrupted periods, sunk into rather than dipped.

And this is because while lovely, and evocative, and interesting, Elizabeth Pringle lacks a strong plot. Any book split between two narratives in this way faces an uphill struggle to engage the reader because it usually takes twice as long for the book to get going. This one gives no impetus to either story. Elizabeth's memoir is exactly that, the story of her life, while Martha merely lives hers. Things happen, certainly - the relationship between Martha and her sister Susie over their mother is especially keenly observed - but there is little drive or tension. At no point was I waiting to find out what happened.

When the great denouement comes, it feels ... random. There is no particular build up, or the sense that this was the reason Elizabeth was writing her memoir. It's a shame, and I wish Elizabeth's actions following the event had been made more of. There is seriously under-utilised mileage in that particular idea.

The same can be said of the romantic elements - it feels like there's a stage missing between the characters' conversations-in-passing and the characters giving each other a metaphorical throat-swabbing on the doorstep. It feels like the parts are there on paper, but they lack the organic connection between the characters. When I read about a relationship I want to feel these two people not getting together would be a travesty. Instead I was a bit ho-hum about it.

The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle is one of these books I could might well have given up on if it hadn't been an ARC, but one of the ones I'm glad I didn't. Sometimes a book turns out not to be right for me, the sack of meat and bitterness behind the keyboard, and I think there's certainly an element of that here. While slow, for me it was a solid three-star read. If Women's Fiction set on a remote Scottish Island appeals, I'd certainly recommend you download a sample.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 26 Oct 2014
By 
Liz Wilkins "Lizzy11268" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This was an utterly charming novel, a gentle and engaging read, told over two alternating timelines, that of Elizabeth through her journal and that of Martha as she takes up the legacy and works through the issues in her own life.

Beautifully drawn when it comes to sense of place, the author manages to bring the Isle of Arran – a place I have never visited – to life in wonderful detail giving an evocative backdrop to Elizabeth’s story. Elizabeth herself is fascinating as we follow events from the first World War onwards, watching her develop friendships and live out her life, leading to the secret that defined her. I was totally engrossed in the tale throughout and I especially liked the similarites drawn between the issues both Elizabeth and Martha face and the changing outlook of modern times.

**Source: BookBridgr**

Martha is also enchanting – Taking up some of Elizabeth’s friendships, dealing with the difficult relationship she has with her sister, whilst also coping with her mother’s dementia (this part I think was one of the best, watching Martha see her mother fade is touching and poignant) Kirsty Wark manages to capture the emotional resonance of the two women perfectly, keeping you immersed in their story for the entirety of the read.

The story flows beautifully, there is some wonderful writing here, two strong and intriguing female characters, a story that spans changing times and attitudes and descriptive prose that will immediately make you want to visit Arran, I read this over the course of one day and was very sad to leave Martha and Elizabeth and for that matter ALL the characters behind me. Ms Wark is well known as a journalist and broadcaster and this, her first foray into novel writing, for me was pitch perfect and I can’t wait to see what she brings us next.

Recommended for fans of family drama that packs real emotional punch.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read, 25 Nov 2014
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I started to read this book with some scepticism but before long was captivated by both the prose and subject. As the story unfolded I just had to turn the page
It was set in a part of the British isles which have always been magical and mysterious and that's how I would describe this book g
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5.0 out of 5 stars A THOROUGHLY ENRICHING EXPERIENCE, 21 Oct 2014
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This is a beautiful book and a real tribute to Scotland and more specifically to Arran. It leaves me with a tremendous desire to visit Arran and follow in the footsteps of Elizabeth and Martha walking in the forest glens, mountains and beaches they visited soaking up the atmosphere of this special island. Wark not only describes the wonderful wildlife from 'oyster catchers skittering over the water', 'ringed plovers sounding the alarm' and 'the distant chirrup of sandpipers' but also the wild garlic and the springy heather and the rare rock whitebeam. She has introduced me to artists, architects and musicians. She has taught me the names of different types of rhododendron. She has enabled me to see the two world wars from a different perspective and so much more. It has been a thoroughly enriching experience. I can not wait until her next novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good story, well told, 30 Jun 2014
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story was well told and the characters were totally believable. I was moved by the characters and the decisions they were forced to make .
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The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle
The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark (Hardcover - 13 Mar 2014)
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