The White Camellia Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Beautifully written, the climactic scene will leave readers breathless. The characters are well formed, and I found myself drawn deeply in to the story. I felt as if I were there. This is a powerful book worth anyone's time. I didn't want it to end.
The book opens in Cornwall, Sybil is a strong independent woman about to buy the Tressillion House. The house and the surrounding land bring up the past for Sybil and the reader is tantilised by hints of a big past secret.
In London, we meet Beatrice Tressillion, a young lady looking for work as a journalist. Feeling threatened in the street, she seeks refuge in a Ladies tearoom called The White Camellia. She is befriended by a young group and they take her along to a meeting of The Suffrage League of Women Artists & Journalists. Bea's eyes are opened and she is inspired by the meeting. Facing a marriage of convenience to a cousin she dislikes just to save her family or stepping out and becoming financially independent herself, Bea becomes embroiled in the day to day fight for the rights to vote and the Suffragette movement.
Back in Cornwall Sybil makes plans for the house renovations and investigates an old mine on her property which comes with rumours of a lost gold seam, she employs Madoc Lewis to help her re-open the mine. But it is the White Camellia which draws people to Sybil and her past secrets to unravel.
I enjoyed the ladies tearoom and the ideas behind The White Camellia, but my favourite parts of the book were Cornwall and Sybil's story, probably because of a personal interest in Cornwall, rather than the harsh dangerous battle which the women of the Suffragettes undertook.
This was one of those rare books where everything comes together to make it a perfect read. The most magnificent strong women characters (plus the odd dodgy villain and hot romantic lead), a cinematic quality to the descriptions (BBC Wales and South West, are you reading? Sunday night TV adaptation…?), historical background meticulously researched, turned into fiction and beautifully presented, and a story that has you on the edge of your seat as it builds to its dramatic climax. There’s villainy, secrets, a thirst for revenge, families torn apart – oh, and so much more. If I’m honest, I was hooked from the first few pages when Sybil stands on the cliff and considers the crumbling house lying helpless at her feet. What more do you need?!
I’m not going to say any more. Forgive the absence of analysis – I read it, I loved it (as I’m sure you can tell), and if anyone sees me saying “I don’t like historical fiction without a modern thread”, kick me and say “how about Julia Greenwood?”. Beautiful writing, wonderful storytelling, and onto my Books of the Year list without a moment’s hesitation.
As a point of interest, I happened to read this book after reading Anthony Trollope, who unexpectedly has a lot to say(eg in 'Phineas Finn') about the predicament of women of strong political instincts in the 1870s, since they could only experience politics vicariously through their menfolk. Equally surprisingly is H.G. Wells’s ‘Ann Veronica’, which has just been dramatized on Radio 4 and covers similar themes (even to the extent of mentioning suffragist tea-rooms) in exactly the same period. Well worth looking at both of these if you want to read more about this subject.