31 October 2016

Review and Blog Tour: Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

Today I'm participating in the blog tour for Beyond the Orchard by Australian author Anna Romer, author of Thornwood House.

Lucy Briar has arrived home in turmoil after years overseas. She’s met her fiancĂ© in London and has her life mapped out, but something is holding her back.

Hoping to ground herself and find answers, Lucy settles into once familiar routines. But old tortured feelings flood Lucy’s existence when her beloved father, Ron, is hospitalised and Morgan – the man who drove her away all those years ago – seeks her out.

Worse, Ron implores Lucy to visit Bitterwood Estate, the crumbling historic family guesthouse now left to him. He needs Lucy to find something – an old photograph album, the very thing that drove Ron and his father apart.

Lucy has her own painful memories of Bitterwood, darkness that has plagued her dreams since she was young. But as Lucy searches for the album, the house begins to give up its ghosts and she is driven to put them to rest.

And there, held tightly between the house, the orchard and the soaring cliffs, Lucy uncovers a long-hidden secret that shattered a family’s bond and kept a frightened young girl in its thrall ... and Lucy discovers just how fierce the lonely heart can be.

My Review
Beyond the Orchard is an historical novel with dual time frames, a crumbling estate called Bitterwood (great name right?) and family secrets of love, grief and guilt to discover.

Distinctly Australian, I loved the early references to places in Melbourne I instantly recognised, including: Dandenong Road, Elsternwick, Prahran, Geelong and the Great Ocean Road. It certainly gave me a buzz to see Lucy visit these familiar places.

However what hampered my enjoyment further was the sheer number of character points of view combined with the multiple different time frames. Looking back, I counted at least four time periods (1917/1918, 1929/1930, 1977 and 1993) at least five different character perspectives and the manuscript of a fairytale entwined with the story. This was just too much for me.

With all of this going on, the fairytale didn't work for me, the romance didn't interest me and I found it hard to accept the ending. (Peace? I don't think so! Not a spoiler, but hopefully those on the blog tour who have read it will know what I'm referring to here.) 

The strongest part of the novel by far was the story of Orah, and I would have preferred to read her story over that of Lucy unravelling her family history at Bitterwood any day. Orah was a fascinating character who really came alive on the page. Her rescue had me gasping in suspense and I found her story moving and definitely memorable.

I haven't read Thornwood House, so I can't compare it to this, but Beyond the Orchard will appeal to readers of Australian fiction and fans of Kate Morton.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

Check out the next stop on the blog tour here on 2 November.


Deborah said...

I really enjoyed this - more than I expected to in fact. I didn't mind the changing timeframes, but didn't know most of the settings... though I think that's something Romer does particularly well.

Carol Seeley said...

I love Orah's story - that would make a great book in its own right I think..

Tracey said...

Glad you enjoyed it Deborah, and I agree with you Carol, a book about Orah would go straight to my TBR pile.

Anonymous said...

The story was a little overwhelming at times. I must admit this is my least favourite Anna Romer book. I'd definitely recommend Thornwood House, it's brilliant!

Tracey said...

Perhaps I should check out Thornwood House instead, thanks for the recommendation.

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