A debut novel about a disturbing family history.
In the first half of the 20th century, a wealthy family grows up on an enchanting island in the Mediterranean. Like most literary families with a perfect façade, this one hides some dark secrets. Sophie is a widow, raising her daughter Adora and her son Sebastian. Adora and Sebastian are unnervingly close, and their unnatural relationship is the source of whispers around town. Adora grows up to become the unofficial queen of the island, with all the summer families worshipping at her feet. She and her husband, Oliver, enjoy a gilded lifestyle and internal misery. Concurrently, Oliver’s best friend, James, and his wife Miranda send their daughter, Genevieve, to the island each summer to stay with the royal couple. Adora and Genevieve become obsessed with each other, alienating Miranda and putting a now-elderly Sophie on alert. When a dashing young man enters the fold one summer, relationships become even more complex and mysterious, leading each unfortunate member of the cast toward ruin. The point of view shifts among Sophie, Adora, Miranda and Genevieve; unfortunately, the voices are indistinct and serve to blur a potentially creative narrative structure. As the family’s history unfolds, secrets are revealed and each woman’s deception, manipulation and misfortune are uncovered. Though there are some intriguing revelations, the forced poeticism, unnatural language and general lack of plot make this a plodding read.
Bland, despite a few good reveals.