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3.9 out of 5 stars131
3.9 out of 5 stars
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This is the first of Rachel Hore's books we've read. A detailed & complex plot with many diverse characters, but we all felt it was extremely well written keeping the reader engaged to the end of the story. There were many synchronisities but despite these we agreed the story-line was strong and came together well. Our group gave it 8 out of 10.
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on 19 September 2010
This is a fascinatingly complex story of how the past can affect the present. Jude, the main character, still trying to come to terms with the death of her young husband four years earlier, is a specialist in 18th century books and manuscripts. When she takes a call one lunchtime, intended for another employee of the small auctioneers business where she works, she feels a frisson of interest - as a child, her grandmother lived in the gamekeeper's cottage on the estate of Starbrough Hall, home of the caller Robert Wickham. Her Gran still lives nearby, as does her pretty but prickly sister Claire, whose daughter, Summer, has started suffering the same nightmares that plagued Jude as a child - running through a forest unable to find her mother.

Both Jude's Gran, and her mother, Valerie, seem to have some past, but unacknowledged, connection to a crumbling folly built in the 18th century by astronomer Anthony Wickham, the then owner of the estate, to enable him to study the stars. As Jude searches through the old manuscripts, she unearths the journals of the young Esther Wickham, whose story unfolds alongside the modern day tale and proves even more compelling. Who was she, and where did she come from? And what happened to her after Anthony Wickham died?

There is a large cast of characters, but they're clearly defined and there's never any problem knowing who they are. There's also the astronomical history, the romantic interest surrounding Euan, a naturalist and present occupant of Gran's old home, and the tense rivalry yet edgy closeness between the sisters, Jude and Claire.

It's a novel of many facets, and I had to admire the intricate plotting which enabled the author to piece together all aspects of the story and the secrets it contains. For me, there were just two detractions: the style in the early pages seemed at times forced and unnatural, although becoming more flowing as the story progressed - Esther's 18th century voice, for instance, was beautifully conveyed; and some of the coincidences that brought the loose ends together were, for me, just a little too coincidental.

Nevertheless it's an engrossing read, a perfect story for bedtime or curled up in front of the fire as the autumnal evenings set in. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes a light but intriguing read.
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on 5 January 2011
The book follows Jude, an auctioneer, as she visits Starbrough Hall to evaluate a collection for auction. What then follows are pages and pages devoted to a diary she finds hidden away, detailing mainly star gazing trips, which I found completely boring. The plot involves coincidence after coincidence which in my opinion never bind together as anything coherent. As other reviewers have said it is a poor imitation of a Kate Morton book. I almost gave up numerous times while reading this but was determined to reach the end - it wasn't worth it!
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VINE VOICEon 9 April 2012
I loved The Glass Painter's Daughter, so was keen to read this book, despite the copycat cover picture with yet another old gate a la Kate Morton.

The story centres round Jude, who works for an auction house and is sent to Norfolk to value a collection of astronomical gubbins. She used to live near the place and has various connections with the area, which all come out as the story progresses. Much of the tale centres around dreams, and the notion that recurring dreams can be inherited.

Some of the story is told in a voice from the past, that of Esther, the adopted daughter of Anthony Wickham, who once owned the Hall and was the originator of all the material on astronomy. It sounds quite dull, but I enjoyed the tale as it unfolded.

I did find some of the conversations a bit long and felt the book could have done with some firmer editing. I lost count of the times that "Jude sat down, suddenly weary" or "Her mouth formed into an O of surprise" or "Her mouth formed a little moue". (Rachel obviously liked the word 'moue' quite a lot. )

I also got quite tired having to keep going up all those stairs to the tower.

However, overall, this book is a good dose of escapism. I read it in bed when I wasn't very well, and, as another reviewer has commented, it is an ideal book for such circumstances.
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on 12 December 2011
I just finished this book and was delighted with it. Loved the story and couldnt put it down. Why is there so many negative comments about this book!!!!!!!!!! Never read this author before but will definitely seek her out!
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on 12 December 2011
Other reviewers seem to be very hard on this book. It's just escapist fiction after all. I enjoyed it and thought the author wove in the two time frames rather skillfully. Yes, at the end it turns out everything is interconnected but wasn't that what the story was all about? It does proceed at a fairly gentle pace but it has a certain charm. A good, soothing book to read when you can't get to sleep or are poorly.
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VINE VOICEon 18 January 2011
I really like to try to find something positive to say in a book review, but this one is something of a challenge! It was a present and I was absolutely determined to finish it. Well....., the picture on the cover is quite nice, the character of Anthony Wickham in the age of eighteenth century astronomical discovery was interesting, .....and I did actually manage to finish the book.
However, this has to be weighed against a really ridiculous storyline involving numerous absurd coincidences. For example, Jude the auction-house heroine just happens by chance to receive a call from the owner of Starbrough Hall, which just happens to be just down the road from her family home, which happens to have a folly in the grounds which is the subject of her and her niece's dreams, and happens to discover hidden diary accounts of Esther behind the bookcase in Starbrough Hall which gives clues to the origins of the dreams, and also finds a necklace that links her grandmother to Esther - oh but wait, there's a silver star missing from the necklace! Oh, panic over, here it is on the ground by the folly where it was dropped about 250 years ago.....and guess what, they end up being all related to each other! Then her niece's lost father just drops by because he's related to another key character in the story. Honestly, anyone would think Norfolk is some rural backwater where everyone is related to each!
At one point the characters all stare at each other opened mouthed by some coincidence. Well, they're not the only ones. I was wondering whether the writer, in a moment of insight, had realised this was all so ridiculous it couldn't possibly be working. But no, on she goes!
Not only was the plotting very silly, reliant on coincidence and dreams, but the prose and dialogue were clunky and uninspiring. I did wonder how this actually managed to get published. Then I read the author's biography and saw she is in the publishing industry. Well, I guess that answers that! But wait, oh no, she's written three others.........
I feel like Craig Revel-Horwood having just watched an Ann Widdecombe samba...OMG!
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on 30 April 2011
The main character Jude works for an Auctioneers and is asked to look through the library and manuscripts of an 18th-century amateur astronomer, Anthony Wickham. While doing so she finds entries from his adopted daughter, Esther who the current members of the Wickham family have never heard of. Jude sets out to discover just who was Esther, where did she come from and what happened to her. At the same time Jude's niece has dreams and nightmares that seem to be connected to the events of the past.

Esther's story and Jude's investigation were enjoyable to read about and Jude's attempts to rebuild her life after the death of her husband four years previously helped keep the focus on the present as well as the past. Although, I felt some of the topics surrounding Jude: her grief, a possible revelation about her late husband and the rivalry between her and her sister were skimmed over and that exploring them further would have made a more satisfying read.

For me the mystery of the dreams was not needed and distracted from the more interesting story of Esther. I was also disappointed with the latter part of the book where not only coincidences and connections abounded but seemed to come too easily to light.

This book would have been better if it had just been about Jude, her relationships with her family and her investigation. The author's attempt to tie everything together and add some sort of supernatural mystery spoiled the story somewhat.
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on 31 October 2010
I was looking forward so much to this book as I've very much enjoyed Rachel Hore's previous novels, but oh dear - what a let down. It seemed a laborious read to me, and although I found some parts interesting, in general things were so slow-moving. But the thing that irritated me most were the coincidences. Goodness me, they came thick and fast. One or two I could have accepted, but by the end of the book everyone appeared to be related in some way to everyone else and I would cite examples except that I wouldn't want to spoil the story for anyone who really does want to read this novel and make their own judgment. But be prepared to have your credulity stretched!
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on 18 October 2010
This book is very disappointing. The characters have absolutely no depth at all and all the conversations between them are incredibly wooden. The storyline seems to depend on one coincidence after another and then resorts to dreams to fill in the gaps. The 'hero' of the romance is quite nauseating as he rescues bunnies and makes peg dolls. Definitely not for me! How on earth it got selected for the Richard & Judy bookclub I have absolutely no idea but it certainly puts me off trying any of the other books on their shortlist.
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