A scattered family comes together for a mysterious announcement in Evans’ (Not Without You, 2014) latest novel.
From an English estate called Winterfold, Martha Winter sends out invitations for her 80th birthday party with a puzzling statement: “There will be an important announcement. We ask that you please be there.” Only her husband, David, a well-known cartoonist, knows what this announcement might be. The Winters have been fixtures in their Somerset village for 45 years, raising their three children, Florence, Bill, and Daisy, there, though both Martha and David come from humble backgrounds in London’s East End. Now only their son Bill lives nearby. Daisy hasn’t been seen in years after having gone off to do charity work in India, and Florence is an art history professor in Italy. All three children, though successful in their careers, seem to fail when it comes to personal relationships. Bill is on his second marriage, Daisy abandoned her daughter, Cat, and seems to want little to do with the family, and Florence is an awkward spinster in love with a man who treats her with disdain. Told from the perspectives of various family members as they receive Martha’s invitations, it’s clear this family’s story is full of unanswered questions. How did Martha and David come to Winterfold, and what were they running from? Why did Daisy disappear, and will she make an appearance at the party? Why did Florence always feel like an outsider in her own family? And of course, what is Martha’s big announcement? These questions create a quiet suspense, and their surprising answers come at a satisfying pace. Each of the characters is distinct and sympathetic, and the tensions in the family are often treated with a comic touch even in the midst of tragedy.
While a story with this many characters could have felt disjointed, here they are interwoven tightly to create a single, absorbing tapestry.