I’m a big fan of fiction written against a well-researched historical background and this 688 page novel delivers the tale of young Indian Anahita Chevran which weaves between her homeland and England where she is trapped at the beginning of World War I. During her time in England she spent time at Astbury Hall as the companion to Princess Indira. Lady Maud Astbury makes it quite clear that poor Anahita is an unwelcome addition to the household but with few options as an orphan, it is clear that she has to endure her time spent in this remote stately home.
In the present day Rebecca Bradley is an actress filming a period drama set in the 1920’s at Astbury Hall, in Dartmoor. Rebecca is eager to escape the press interest about her private life and so the trip to England is the perfect solution. There is a surprise in store when she becomes friendly with the resident Lord Astbury who is amazed at her likeness to his Grandmother Violet.
I can only admire Lucinda Riley’s story-telling as a large part of this story not only demanded that the historical details felt authentic, but also that the tale of Anahita’s life in India felt equally genuine and on both counts she succeeded. Although romantic attachments are key to the lives of a number of the characters there is also a dark mystery to be uncovered.
For me the power of a dual time-line novel depends on the past and the present being equally believable and although for me understanding what the truth was of Anahita’s life was what kept me reading the tie-in to the present day story was integral to the whole tale, one could simply not have existed without the other.
The pacing of this story is masterfully done, after all this is a long book yet one that I immersed myself in as letters, diaries and long-held family secrets were slowly uncovered. The central character in this book is Anahita and her character was well fleshed out although what stopped me awarding this book five stars is although there were other engaging characters including Princess Indira and Mrs Trevathan I did find a few of them quite wishy-washy but this wasn’t enough to spoil what is an epic story which beautifully contrasts different cultures, different times all wrapped up with a tale set perfectly within its time period.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers Atria Books in return for my honest review.
on 18 January 2014
Lucinda Riley became a must-read author for me when I read her second novel The Girl On The Cliff. It blew me away, it was such an intricate, enjoyable story, and it even made me cry. Books don't always make me cry, but when they do I know they were a good read. So I was super pleased to receive a copy of her new novel The Midnight Rose, although the sheer size of it made me gasp. Coming in at just under 650 pages, it's one of the longest novels I've ever read, if not the longest. It may only be marginally smaller than a Harry Potter book! I was a bit concerned, I don't read books that are mega long, just because generally they don't hold my attention, but, actually, the only reminder of the sheer size of The Midnight Rose was the effect it was having on my thumb. It is now numb and I can't feel it, and feel like I will never recover the feeling.
The Midnight Rose is quite the epic tale, but at its heart it is the story of Anahita Chavan, who at the grand old age of 100 knows that time is running out for her. She will soon be joining her contemporaries in heaven, or the Indian equivalent, and so she entrusts in her great-grandson Ari the tale of her life, asking him that, when he is ready, he will try and find out what happened to her son, Moh. She was told he died at the age of three, but Anahita never really believed that, and when Ari rocks up at Astbury Hall, where Rebecca Bradley is busy filming her new movie, they both become embroiled in the tale of Anahita Chavan, and the Astbury's. A tale that spans generations and contains many secrets which are about to come to the fore.
Lucinda Riley is one of the most accomplished storytellers I will ever come across, and reading her work again has reminded me again of how much I adore her writing. She really manages to suck you in to so many different stories, and in this case it was the two: Anahita Chavan's story, which is immense. Set in India, and England, it spans such a long time and was so sumptuous and enjoyable, it's not a part of life I know of, I very rarely read books set in different time periods to today, but I found myself drawn into Anahita's story in such a way that I felt like I, too, was living it right alongside her. From her friendship with Indira, an Indian princess, to her life in England, and her life at Astbury Hall, I was so desperate for her to get a happy ending, and it was good to see that even at 100, she was still competent enough to be so wise and wordy. If I live to be that age, I would love to be just like Anahita. Then there was the modern day tale of Rebecca Bradley, famous actress, who has come to Astbury Hall to film her new movie and ends up digging into Astbury's history, especially as the hall's owner Lord Anthony thinks she's the spitting image of his grandmother, Violet. There, she and Ari work to find out just what did happen to Anahita at Astbury, and what became of her son, Moh, and it is fantastic.
I totally admire Lucinda Riley. She managed to write a 650 page epic novel, and kept me enticed the entire time. I was never bored whilst reading The Midnight Rose, and I kept wanting to go back to it and read more, and more, and more. It was fascinating. It had so many wonderful strands and it all unfolded in such a delightful way that I couldn't get enough. I adored getting to know the characters, and I loved learning more about a time that I don't really know about, and it was yet another novel partly-set in India, which I'm learning to love more and more with every book I read. I would love to visit and see if these palaces still exist today, because they sound magnificent. The sheer volume of the novel may scare people off, but it's absolutely worth its weight in gold, Lucinda Riley really does give you good value for money and I loved every page. It was superb, and I admire Lucinda Riley for pulling it off, she is just an amazing storyteller, and I can't wait for her next book!
on 24 February 2014
Spanning across an entire century and two continents, The Midnight Rose makes for an epic tale, and consists of two intersecting stories cleverly woven together. Anahita Chavan is a young Indian girl who finds herself as companion to Indira, a rather spoiled but enigmatic Princess. Just ahead of World War 1 breaking out the two travel over to England to attend boarding school, where Anahita crosses paths with the Astbury family, her life thereafter changing forever. In present day England, Hollywood starlet Rebecca Bradley finds herself filming a period piece at the charmingly old-fashioned and dated Astbury Hall; yet it soon becomes apparent that the Hall has a tragic past, and when Ari Malik, a dashing young Indian man comes calling eager to put together the missing pieces of a family mystery, Rebecca finds herself becoming more and more involved in helping uncover the dark secrets of the past.
Lucinda Riley certainly knows how to spin a good tale, her stories always ambitious in scope; and it is fair to say The Midnight Rose is probably her most aspiring yet. Certainly she seems to have done her research; and in particular paints a vivid picture of India in the early 1900s, her depictions of the Royal Palaces and life within the Zenanas quite brilliantly brought to life. She also excels in highlighting the marked contrast between the two continents in all respects, from the sights and smells to the differences in culture and people; whilst also depicting the common parallels. Personally I have to say I probably found the first half of the story set mostly in India more enjoyable, purely for the insight it gave and the vibrancy with which it was depicted; Anahita's later story in England seeming more familiar material and less arresting as a result.
As with all Riley's novels this is a dual time narrative, with the use of diaries as a link between the two time frames; and as with all her previous novels the past story is much more engrossing than the present. Indeed for this reason it takes a while to get into the story, and I personally found Riley rather dragged out the subplot of Rebecca's strained relationship with her A-list celebrity boyfriend. Still the present day story did get more interesting with some rather weird goings on at Astbury Hall; though perhaps a little too weird towards the end, Riley sometimes having a tendency towards the over dramatic.
Anahita makes for an engaging heroine, sensitive, mature and insightful; her story a tragic one and even though she's not perfect , some of the decisions she makes not quite fitting her saintly and wise image, it is easy to feel for her and the prejudices and barriers she faces I think are realistic ones for the time period. Unfortunately a lot of the other characters are not as fleshed out or layered as Anahita; though I did like her friend Princess Indira, even though she could be selfish and spoiled at times. Donald, whilst he was certainly manipulated and controlled by his mother, I personally felt was too wishy-washy and passive; and for some reason the central love story simply seemed too contrived to me. I don't think it helped that the love triangle set up was too similar to the one Riley employed in Hothouse Flower. Also certain aspects of the plot were very predictable.
Overall an engaging if undemanding read; perhaps a little formulaic and contrived in places, and I do think Riley has a tendency towards the soap-operatic compared to other authors of the genre, however, highly enjoyable nonetheless.
Sometimes I need a good dollop of escapism in my reading material, especially during the dreary Winter months when sunshine is in short supply. Fortunately I had The Midnight Rose, Lucinda Riley's latest novel, to keep me entertained when the Christmas festivities had fizzled out.
This is the story of Anni (Anahita) Chavan, a tale which spans four generations and two continents. As Anni celebrates her 100th birthday in Darjeeling, India, surrounded by her extended family, she decides to entrust her great-grandson, Ari, with the task of uncovering long buried family secrets - secrets which will lead him to Astbury Hall and the staid world of the English aristocracy.
As the novel progresses, we see the vivid colours of India at the height of the Raj; a warm, vibrant setting which contrasts sharply with the cold, reserved atmosphere which awaits Anni when she comes to England. The characters are larger than life, particularly the strong women in the shape of Anni and her nemesis, Lady Maud Astbury.
The Midnight Rose is a thoroughly entertaining read which will appeal to those who enjoy historical sagas in the style of Barbara Taylor Bradford and Lesley Pearse and perhaps fans of Downton Abbey. Yes, there are a few predictable elements but there's no doubt Ms Riley can spin a good yarn to keep her readers captivated.
Midnight Rose – Lucinda Riley
I admit I had never heard of Lucinda Riley and therefore had never read any of her books. My favourite author is Barbra Erskine and Amazon suggested that if readers liked Erskine then they may like Lucinda Riley. So I bought Midnight Rose expecting to go on a chilling, supernatural journey.
Riley is most certainly a talented writer and similar to Erskine in as much as there are stories going on in different time periods (and completely different countries) leaving the reader wondering how on Earth the characters will meet and their lives entwine.
There are extraordinary highs in this book that will lift your heart but my goodness there are such sad parts that will leave you with a large lump in your throat. You feel so much for the young Anahita, she endures so much in her life and makes many sacrifices that you so want her to have her own happy ever after.
Midnight Rose is a tale of love, life, friendship, family, loss, class and so much more. There is a brief acknowledgement to the supernatural but only in as much as our heroine hears beautiful singing when a death is coming and this gift has been passed down to grand-son Ari.
This book is powerful and emotional and I enjoyed it immensely. I will certainly read another Lucinda Riley book. My only disappointment (and this has nothing to do with the author to be fair) is that, due to Amazon’s suggested similarities to Erskine, I assumed the book would be chilling and haunting in a way that only Erskine can write. I got halfway through Midnight Rose and was wondering when the goosebumps were going to make an appearance. Once I realized that Amazon was linking the two authors because of their attention to historical events and linking characters from present day to previous years, I let go of the notion that anything supernatural was going to happen, and was able to appreciate and enjoy the story for what it was, and not what I imagined it to be.
I must just add that the end, when Ari is told that Anahita made a great professional friend in Dr Noah - I thought that was absolutely fantastic writing at its best and what a great twist!
on 25 June 2016
I enjoyed this story and it was obvious that a lot of work had gone into the research. The descriptions and details of India were wonderful; I felt as though I was there. The story is full of interesting characters that Anahita meets as she lives her life from childhood to her death at over one hundred years old, including her love for Lord Donald Astbury, an English aristocrat. Entwined with Anahita's story is that of Rebecca, a modern day American film star who gets caught up in the mystery of Astbury Hall.
Although I found much of the writing brilliant, I did think some of the sentences a bit 'clunky' and could have done with editing and I'm not sure there was a need to explain what chloroform is used for. I was also dubious that the police, even in 1922, would arrest a young woman leaving her young child alone in a cottage.
But other than these slight quibbles, I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a sweeping historical romance. A well deserved four stars.