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They were known as the Wildflowers, the lot of them. Spent every summer here. Oh, the people they used to have staying. The glamour of it! You’d walk past on the way back from the beach and you’d see them above you, gramophone on, drinking cocktails, women in those beautiful dresses, and their kids running up and down the steps … What a life.”

 

HARRIET EVANS’ THE WILDFLOWERS is a family saga in the proper sense of the term. Paying more than a nod to the kind of novels Rosamunde Pilcher and Maeve Binchy wrote so successfully, Evans’ latest tale is set primarily in Worth Bay on the Dorset coast and centres around a now neglected, somewhat dilapidated house, once the beloved beachside home of actors Althea and Tony Wilde.

Wilde by name and wild by nature (forgive me, I just couldn’t help myself…), Tony and Althea are the darlings of the British stage, their tempestuous and passionate relationship played out rather publicly. The Bosky, where they spend the summers with their children, Cord (Cordelia) and Ben, is Tony’s childhood home, where he stayed with his glamorous and slightly arcane great aunt.

As the book opens, the family Wilde have been estranged for several years. Cord, a renowned singer whose voice has been destroyed, is called back to Dorset by brother Ben. Their mother, Althea, Lady Wilde, who now resides in a home near the Bosky, is dying and has something she wants to give to Cord. Ben also informs Cord that she will inherit the house on their mother’s death.

The Wildes’ story unfolds in a series of flashbacks. The past, from the 1940s onwards, is interwoven with the present, 2014/15, the secrets, which have all but torn the family apart, finally unveiled.

The Wildflowers is slow to burn, but it is a book worth persevering with. It’s an enjoyable novel, a perfect summer beach read.

 

The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans • 5 April 2018 • Headline • Paperback • £7.99

 

Music to listen to while reading:Somewhere in time‘ theme, John Barry (there’s always got to be John Barry and it’s perfect sweeping family saga music); ‘Rêverie‘, Debussy; ‘This never happened to me before‘, Paul McCartney; ‘Vincent‘, Don McLean.

 

Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of The Wildflowers book blog tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater for inviting us to be part of the tour, and to the publisher, Headline, for supplying a book proof. All thoughts and opinions are our own. Quoted text, Frank’s recollections, page 5 © Harriet Evans 2018. Image ‘What’s on The Literary Shelf? The Wildflowers‘ © The Literary Shed 2018.

 

Also of interest:Reading on location – Sophie Green’s Australia‘; ‘Valley of the Dolls, 50 years on – some things just get better with age‘; ‘Nora Roberts’ Come Sundown‘; ‘Sing, sing a song – Gil Hornby’s All Together Now and the power of music‘; ‘Chris Whitaker’s mad, mad world – Tall Oaks; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten“‘; ‘“Amethyst and flowers on the table”, the beauty of Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie and Lowell, a review’.

 

This review is © 2018 by The Literary Shed. All opinions are our own. All rights are reserved. We welcome your feedback and comments, so please do contact us or fill in the form below. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do request permission. Thank you so much.