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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

A tale of a tragedy seeping through generations, and a family fractured by history and desire.

On the battlefields of the Crimea, William Gale cradles the still-warm body of his brother. William's experience of war will bring about a change in him that will reverberate through his family over the next two centuries.

In the 1970s, William's descendants invite Stephen, a distant relation, to stay in their house in the English countryside—but their golden summer entanglements will end in a shocking fall from grace.

Half a century later, a confrontation between the surviving members of the family will culminate in a terrible reckoning.

©2022 Cressida Connolly (P)2022 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"A writer who seems able to peer directly into the human heart." (John Preston)

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  • Overall
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Balaclava

Excellent narration. I felt great empathy for Stephen, his mother and Alice but little for the Cornish family. The historical part was my favourite but part two is important with it’s tragic denouement. Part three was a satusf

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Families bringing out the best and the worst

I loved this beautifully restrained , understated yet deep, emotionally nuanced and moving novel which moves through 150 years in three parts.

During the Crimea War at the Battle of the Alma in 1854 William Gale is awarded the VC and returns home traumatised by his experiences which included cradling his dying brother. His marriage to his devoted wife Alice finally crumbles under the strain and she leaves for Melbourne to start a new life with her baby son and her doctor. Over 120 years later in 1977, Stephen, the descendant of that baby boy, comes to Cornwall as a 17 year-old to the Gale family farm where he is consumed with love for Cassie whilst sleeping with her sister Georgie. He is swept up into a glorious summer of freedom with the family but the young ones’ light-hearted dalliance with drugs has a catastrophic outcome for Stephen, the full tragedy of which seeps out only slowly through this captivating narrative. Fast forward to 2016 and middle aged Hazel, Stephen’s grieving sister, has come with a specific purpose from Melbourne to see the English descendants of her great great grandfather William Gale.

The themes which Cressida Connolly explores in this vivid portrayal of past tragedies and events filtering down the years to tear families apart is brilliantly and subtly worked out. Central to this serious theme is the Victoria Cross awarded to William which his descendants in 2016 have learned is worth possibly as much as £400,000. Their scramble to find the medal once kept in a table drawer and their various ‘rights’ to the money tear them apart – and then Stephen’s sister Hazel arrives from Melbourne with her bombshell agenda. Families don’t always bring out the best in one another, Cressida Connolly remarks with typical understatement as the final denouement is played out with masterly subtlety which leaves the listener entirely satisfied - and thoughtful.

Sam Woolf’s narration is excellent – absolutely in tune with Connolly’s finely nuanced writing.

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Wonderful journey across generations

The characters felt real, the stories folded beautifully into each other with a satisfying ending.
Highly recommended

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reads more like 3 separate novellas

Good book but I felt that the story links were a bit laboured & contrived. The narrative was uneven, some parts gripped my attention, others were a bit tedious. Very well narrated, if I'd been reading it I would probably have given up well before the end.

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Memorable

Beautifully crafted history of one family over several generations linked by one object of extraordinary history The novel slow to start grew in stature until the last chapter which was extremely moving and could resonate for many families in a mutiplicity of situations

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Pitch perfect

The clarity of Connolly’s prose is matched by a perfectly pitched narrative where past and present illuminate timeless family anguish. Remarkable, highly readable and beautifully read here by Sam Woolf.