Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Love Always by Harriet Evans — family secrets in Cornwall

Title: Love Always
Author: Harriet Evans
Publication: Harper UK, paperback, 2011
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Cornwall and London
Description: The death of Natasha Kapoor’s grandmother, a well-known artist, brings all of her family back to Cornwall to the funeral and reveals tensions that go back to the tragic death of her aunt Cecily as a teen. Natasha has enough stress in her life without looking for family secrets to unravel – her husband has been cheating on her and her jewelry making business is on the verge of bankruptcy – however, when her grandfather gives her Cecily’s not-so-secret diary she realizes it may explain her mother’s strange detachment and perhaps even her unknown father’s identity.

My Impression: Harriet Evans is a bestselling British chick lit author who is virtually unknown in the US but I found this at a book sale on the Cape three years ago. I am sure the Cornwall setting (a place I am eager to visit) and heroine exploring the secrets of the past is what caught my interest but the story itself was disappointing. The grandmother, Frances Seymour, had been studying art during WWII when she met and married Arvind Kapoor, a brilliant but penniless economist from what is now Pakistan. It is never completely clear what she saw in him but his books eventually become bestsellers, allowing them to buy Summercove, a rambling house in Cornwall, where they can entertain Bohemian friends and bring up their three children: twins, Miranda and Archie; and Cecily. They don’t seem to have noticed that their children are teased mercilessly for their mixed heritage. During the summer of 1963, family and friends come to stay, Cecily, the youngest, tries to make herself important by dramatizing everything in her diary, and when she dies unexpectedly, no one knows whether it was an accident. It is up to Natasha, many years later, to find out what happened to the aunt she closely resembles.

Family secrets are usually a good plot device but my issue with this book was that it was so full of unpleasant people that I did not really care about their problems. Lost love and secret diaries are all very well but this family just seemed a bit too sordid for me. Also, Evans emphasizes that Frances and Arvind’s three children are all gorgeous but receive a lot of abuse from teachers and classmates for being multi-racial at a time when it was uncommon; I am sure this is all too plausible but it was annoying to read about the self-absorbed parents who paid no attention to their children's suffering.

This is book 8 of my 20 Books of Summer.
Source: Personal copy. 


Lark said...

That Cornwall setting is always a draw for me, too. I'm sorry the story wasn't better. How disappointing.

TracyK said...

The premise of this book does sound interesting, although on the surface it is not the type of book I would usually read. But if you found the characters that disagreeable, it probably would not work for me either.

Cath said...

Well, I was a schoolgirl in 1963 in Cornwall (aged 10) and I'm trying to decide how much children of mixed race would have suffered. There was an Indian family in the town but the son went to the grammar school (he too was very good-looking) and obviously I have no idea what he went through. Observing him around the town he seemed to have loads of friends but there are ignorant people everywhere so I'm guessing there were unpleasant moments. I honestly can't see 'teachers' racially abusing mixed race children though. I went to three schools and can't think of one teacher who would have done that. On a slightly lighter note an American boy did join my school for a year or two. He was impossibly handsome and was the most popular boy in the school, with the girls anyway. LOL!