Anyone who knows me knows that I am all about the historical fiction these days, and if it contains a duel narrative, even better. No one does this genre better than the three Kates; Morton, Forsyth and Atkinson. It is Kate Morton's work which is most strongly called to mind by the book for today's review, and I'm not just saying that because of the similarities between the cover of this book and the cover of The Clockmaker's Daughter. They even have similar titles!
The novel is paced nicely which makes for a quick and absorbing read, though at times the author's attempts to create cliffhanger endings tended to be somewhat jarring. Generally, the chapters alternated between Anna's and Elizabeth's points of view, though at times we got two of one or the other, depending on what point we were in each narrative arc. The two stories complemented one another nicely in this regard. I was somewhat disappointed, however, with the ways that that stories turned out.
Nunn has created two inspiring heroines, who use their respective quests as a means of overcoming grief and finding a new direction for their lives. The ways that their stories end up leave me unconvinced that they will achieve this (and in one case, I am convinced of the opposite, but you'd have to read the book to find out why.) At times, Elizabeth's quest had me thinking of Elizabeth Gilbert's novel The Signature of All Things. I would have liked for her story to have been more fantastical than it was-- there was a sense that the author was holding back and trying not to be too cliche with her twists, but she could have stood to put in a few more. The ending of Elizabeth's story was sad, and unfulfilling, and yes, realistic. Anna's story balanced this out nicely, and there was a sense of history coming full circle, though the closing lines of the novel left me a little confused.
There are the makings of a great historical fiction writer in these pages, but unfortunately this book did not totally live up to the expectations I had for it. I still felt absorbed by it and read it non stop for two days, but ultimately feel there were things about it that I wanted done differently. Perhaps in this case, I was not the ideal reader for this book.
I gave it three and a half stars.