I was sold on Rosemary McLoughlin’s Tyringham Park when it was compared to Downton Abbey. Have I mentioned how much I love Downton Abbey? It’s a lot. A friend commented that every episode of Downton is about making cups of tea. Perhaps, but such elegant cups of tea!
Anyway, the Downton reference was enough but when I read the blurb for Tyringham Park I felt there could have been a little of Ian McEwan’s Atonement in there as well. Hooray!
Tyringham Park, a country estate in Ireland, is home to the Blackshaws (and drama). On an ordinary day in 1917, Victoria Blackshaw, a toddler, disappears without a trace. The search for Victoria uncovers jealousies and deceits that both the upstairs and downstairs inhabitants of the estate have kept hidden. Charlotte, the Blackshaws’ less-favored eight-year-old daughter, finds herself severely impacted by the loss of her sister and as the story unfolds over the following decades, secrets are revealed.
It was a slow start. The characters were a little wooden (maybe deliberately) and somewhat clichéd. I flirted with the idea of dropping it. And then decided to give it one more chapter. And then the character of Charlotte takes over. And then things got interesting.
McLoughlin sets the reader up to sympathize with Charlotte from the outset. She’s the ‘ugly duckling’, she’s trapped in the care of an abusive nanny, and seemingly has no allies in the house. As the story progresses, you’re clear on who are the villains and who are the heroes. Then Charlotte does something reprehensible. It’s deliberate, calculated and in making it so, McLoughlin took the story in a direction I did not see coming.
There’s no question that this book is melodramatic to the nth degree. There were some flaws – the sense of time and place were not strong and McLoughlin’s writing style was not particularly memorable but it did have all the drama you look for in a family saga. While not as subtle as Downton Abbey or as clever and eloquent as Atonement, Tyringham Park ended up being quite the page-turner. It’s begging to be made into a movie.
I received my copy of Tyringham Park from the publisher, Atria Books, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
2.5/5 Recommended for fans of family drama. Half a mark off for the slow start.
Take Tyringham Park with a cup of tea (image found here). Of course there is no better opportunity to mention one of my favourite blogs – Downton Abbey Cooks – check it out for all things food and Downton.