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Customer reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 9 October 2012
Our book club in Dubai just read this and we were all looking forward to reading what promised to be a gripping read.

However - this was our feedback:

PARK LANE - most of us had high hopes for this book but were really disappointed by Osborne's lack of depth and fluidity. All of us felt short changed and often confused as to what had actually happened to supposed key characters at certain points in the book. The book scored between 3 and 5 so a real disappointing first novel for an author who has had bestselling non fiction books in the past. (Helen recommended we read Tracy Chevalier's Fallen Angel as it was set in the same time period but much stronger.)

4 out of 10 from me. Disappointed. :(
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VINE VOICEon 18 November 2012
I liked the idea of the Upstairs Downstairs twin threads to this novel, Grace the maid and Beatrice the rich girl from Park Lane. The background of the campaign for votes for women lends some interesting historical details.

What really irritated me was the use of the present tense throughout the novel. "Grace waits" "Bea stops" and so on.

I did finish the book, but it was a bit of a struggle, as I felt the story lost its way half through. While the descriptions of Bea's life in France during the war were harrowing, at no time did I really feel I wanted to know what happened next to these characters, except for the enigmatic Michael.

Finally, as the story hurtled towards the end, I felt a bit short-changed by the last few pages. Could it not all have worked out in the Kings' Arms?

I found the style plodding, and I wouldn't want to read another book by this author.
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on 19 May 2015
Though the period and events have been visited by many others eg Anthony Quinn I found this book convincing and touching , informed by real events and supported by the research done for her previous biographies .
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on 26 June 2012
It would be easy to dismiss this as a 'bandwagon' novel cashing in on the success of Downton or Upstairs Downstairs, but what makes this different is the clear journalistic knowledge of the period that goes into this first novel. The historical backdrops are not just there for plot convenience (I'm referring to the real events that Osborne describes as her heroine is introduced to the suffragette movement for example) but give the fictional events a social depth and resonance that one won't find in Julian Fellowes' work (good though he is!) The painstaking research that was so enjoyable in 'The Bolter' has been transferred with style and skill to a fascinating period of historical upheaval that has been so oft visited by others, yet Osborne manages to make it feel fresh. My only criticism is that I would have liked the book to be a couple of hundred pages longer - the characters are so well drawn that I missed them instantly on finishing the book - a sure sign of a successful novel.
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on 7 November 2012
You see, having a 'name' isn't enough to make a novel. Sorry. Perhaps 'the name' stopped anybody pulling this apart and making it into a good book - because the basics are all there - but, as it is, it just doesn't cut that mustard, up or downstairs.

This writer's last book was super - but all family history - it worked and was gripping. Alas, not this time.

The family background of a rich family is a good idea - but Dear Lord, does it make a weary path.

Where is the plot? The below stairs character never really comes to life- any more than the upstairs heroine. There is so little tension or conflict BUT ABOVE ALL surely, somebody in the team who worked on this, noted that there's no quest? What is the problem that has to be solved? If it's there, it must be on a shelf in the scullery and never to come out.

Why should we care? Why? That's what fiction is all about, isn't it?

I paid good money for this book and it isn't fair to let a reader down like this.
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on 16 January 2013
Frances Osborne has written an engaging and engrossing novel in the fine English tradition that has come down from Jane Austen. Bea and Grace are fully realized characters, as are their erstwhile brothers, Edward and Michael. Osborne creates an upstairs/downstairs world at once more believable than Downton Abbey but just as entertaining.

Seeing some of the negative reviews on this page was puzzling at first, but reading through them I have the feeling that these readers were expecting more of a light, 'romance' read, or a frothy sex romp, or something. But this is a fully realized novel with three-dimensional characters living out their story at a crucial period in world history.

In short---Buy it, read it, you won't be disappointed. You'll be looking forward to many more fine novels from Osborne in the coming years!
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Hardback Edition.

It is 1914; we are in London at 35 Park Lane, the family home of Lady Masters and two of her adult children, Beatrice and Edward. Beatrice is a young woman who feels constrained by duty and tradition and who wants to break free, but is unsure where to direct her energies. When her aunt introduces her to the Suffragette movement, Beatrice finds a focus and she is eager to throw herself wholeheartedly into the fight for votes for women, involving herself with the Pankhursts in militant actions that would horrify her mother.

Below stairs at Park Lane, is Grace Campbell, a young semi-educated woman who has come to London from her home in Carlisle with the hopes of securing a job as a secretary so that she can send as much money as possible home to her struggling family. Unable to find a job in an office, Grace reluctantly takes a job as a housemaid to the Masters family, but keeps her lowly position a secret from her family in Carlisle and also from her brother Michael, an angry young man with a social conscience, who has secured himself a position in London as a Solicitor's clerk.

As Grace waits on Beatrice, and Beatrice becomes further embroiled in the Suffragette movement, the nation moves towards war, and the two women become unwittingly linked in a way that neither of them would have thought possible; and while Grace keeps the home fires burning at Park Lane, Beatrice, as an ambulance driver, finds herself dealing with soldiers who have been horrifically injured at the front line. This story moves between the two main protagonists as we listen to their inner thoughts and observe the experiences of two women who are born into different classes, but who both strive to change their lives.

I received this book as a gift and initially I wasn't sure that I would really enjoy it; however, I am pleased to say that I found this an interesting and pleasant read and became quite involved in the lives of Beatrice and Grace - both characters who were warmly depicted by Frances Osborne - and of the people around them, those above and below stairs. I was also appreciative of the fact that the author did not have a tidy and happy ending for all involved - more of the hopeful possibility that for some of the characters, their lives might go forward in the way that we would wish for them. 'Park Lane' like many debut novels, may have its tiny flaws, but this book was a pleasurable read and I shall be looking with interest to see what Frances Osborne chooses as a topic for her next fictional outing.

4 Stars.

Please Note: This is Frances Osborne's first novel but she has written two non-fiction books: The Bolter which I can recommend and Lilla's Feast which I have yet to read.
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on 1 August 2013
I prefer Frances Osborne's non fiction books.I found this book rather shallow and rather unoriginal,it seemed to race through the story.
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on 1 January 2013
A bit jumpy, characters are a tad sketchy and the ending is rather weak. Prefer her non fiction to be honest
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on 5 June 2014
This is a gift for a birthday. I have my own copy and it is a wonderful book ! i loved it and its one i will pick up and read again. Its all in here the maid in service, the upper class lady and the working class guy. They all come together in very strange ways. brilliant. !
eillen d
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