Friday, February 21, 2014

Book Review - Jane Sanderson's Eden Falls

Eden Falls by Jane Sanderson
Published by: Sphere
Publication Date: September 12th, 2013
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Eve's brother Silas is trying to make a go of his luxury hotel in Jamaica. He even has his nephew Seth working for him as his second in command. But things aren't going well. The staff is surly, the customers are fleeing, and Silas is desperate. He thinks that perhaps his sister Eve could help him, but it's not like he's going to ask her, that would be demeaning. Instead Silas writes a letter for Seth to send to his mother, pulling on her heartstrings, and she inevitably agrees to come, despite her husband pointing out the fact that the letter was obviously penned by her own brother and not her son. Yet Eve goes to Seth and tries to fix Silas's problems... though she will fix them in her way not his, which causes yet more strife.

While back in England Eve's family misses her so much it hurts. Even her dear friends miss her. Anna and Amos are at loggerheads. He, as an elected MP for Labour, doesn't view it right that his wife should not only befriend, but work for the upper classes. Their honeymoon is certainly over. While the Earl of Netherwood, Tobias, and his faithless wife Thea are actually coming back together, having a second honeymoon. But the one person making the most news is Lady Henrietta Hoyland, Tobias's elder sister, who is making headlines for her work with the suffrage movement, and for her attack on Downing Street that has lead to her imprisonment. This is just what the youngest Hoyland, Isabella, didn't need when she's coming out; her family in tatters. Yet through the tribulation and strife, the things that really matter, family, love, will be all that remains at the end of the day.

What I have loved most about this series is the minutiae, the day to day details of these characters lives and how from the lowliest pit ponies to the Countess herself, they all flitted in and out of each others lives in Netherwood. This book is completely different from the two proceeding volumes, instead painting the lives we have come to love in broad strokes with the result being that rich, deep characters, have become one note caricatures. Whereas before we were treated to the insights of the Dowager Countess's maid, Flytton, she gets one measly mention in this installment. I'm not sure if this tone shift is because Jane wants to take the books in a different direction, perhaps to lure in more readers, or if she has reached the point wherein she has so many characters that she is unable to successfully juggle them. My money is on the later, mainly because for this volume we were given four pages of dramatis personae, poor Flytton is even excluded there. But I will not discount the "new readers" because there seemed to be a bit too much explaining of people and situations that readers of the series would easily remember.

The narrative has always been linked by a common location, Netherwood, so that people flowed in and out of each others stories easily. By pushing them so far apart distance wise, it seems like when they do show up it's not natural but fate forced to make the story still work as before but within this new rickety framework. The narrative style needs to change if the characters are going to continue to be so geographically dispersed. Maybe the answer is individual books for certain characters. Or being willing to let some characters go or take a backseat for a book or two. Because the lack of detail, the willingness to gloss over things and speed ahead, made this a messy book that left me dissatisfied and wanting more. Plus, if we are to follow every character and then Eliza's journey to France is just mentioned in a sentence or two... well, either you stick to your new style completely, or just abandon it as the failed experiment it obviously is.

One thing that was really missing from this novel was the food. In the previous volumes Jane has lavished attention on the food, making my mouth water and making me wish I had a cook to bake those ambitious recipes in the back of the book for me, or at least Eve's shop around the corner to visit. Gone even are the recipes, and gone is the heart and soul of this book. While food is still important, much like many of the characters, it's just mentioned quickly and pushed aside. This I think is symbolic of what has really happened with this series. As Eve says, you have to put love into your cooking. The ritual of making the humblest pie to the most elaborate feast all comes down to the love put in. I felt like the love was gone, in some cases, like Amos and Anna's bickering, literally gone. 

But what ripped out my heart and jumped on it was that I still love these characters, and all the new ones as well. To see them so briefly and in such circumstances hurt me more then if I hadn't seen them at all. Unlikeable characters ran riot, with Silas becoming so horrid it was almost unreadable. And likable characters like Amos who were complex and many sided became one dimensional and mean. Plus Seth! What the hell! There was such progress with Seth at the end of Ravenscliffe and then it's not just two steps back but who the hell is this evil little Silas wannabe, he's a shit. Everything was cookie cutter without the joy of making the cookies. The plot was predictable, Henrietta's being literally an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs, while Silas and his Jamaicans... that wasn't obvious... not in the least (rolls eyes and sighs). I'm just exasperated. A book that I had so looked forward to picking up has basically broken my heart.

I also wonder, at the end of the day, if Jane was trying to thrust some "morality play" into this mess. With the very vehement hatred of the government from the likes of Amos and Henry, to the dissatisfaction with the monarchy, and then the brouhaha with the Tsar, all on top of which men like Silas, who embody all that is wrong with the empire... was Jane being heavy handed with the war is inevitable to fix this broken world? That revolt is not just coming but inevitable? With our foreknowledge of what is in store, the upheaval and insurrection, she is lending all events portents of doom. I kind of hate this in books. Yes, we know where all this leads, but you know what, people at the time didn't know exactly where it was going. To be basically giving them prophetic abilities seems too much to take in. Plus, if the next book is anything like this one, well, I don't know if the series can even make it to the outbreak of war if it continues this rabid downward trajectory... unless Jane does another time jump...   


Newer Post Older Post Home