Saturday, September 18, 2021

Eden Falls by Jane Sanderson

Title: Eden Falls
Author: Jane Sanderson
Publication: Sphere Books/Little Brown UK, trade paperback, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 1909 England and Jamaica
Description: Third in a trilogy, this book follows several families that became connected near the Yorkshire town of Netherwood. Tobias Hoyland is the Earl of Netherwood, with a suffragette sister who manages his estate, another sister making her debut, an American wife who has no intention of being faithful to him, and a dreadful, self-absorbed mother. Anna Sykes is a Russian refugee who has made a new life for herself by marrying Amos, a Labour MP, and has become a talented artist – her clients are members of society despised by her husband. Anna’s friend Eve was widowed after a mining accident. To support her family, she started a pie business which has thrived. She remarried Lord Netherwood’s gardener and they have a three-year-old. Eve has a brother Silas who has become very successful in Jamaica but has a dreadful reputation, and when he asks for her help, she travels to Jamaica against the wishes of her husband, with disastrous consequences.

My Impression: I am assuming I picked this up when I was last in the UK because it has an Oxfam sticker on the back but I would not have bothered had I realized it was the final installment in a trilogy. The author clearly went overboard in her first two books in terms of creating characters and improbable plot elements. Here, she has to include a Foreword to explain what happened in the first two books and a more-than-three-page list of characters. I am sure it appealed to me because it reminded me of Downton Abbey but it was full of unappealing characters.

Except for Lord Netherwood who grew on me, most of the male characters were annoying or downright vile like Eve’s brother Silas. It was hard to feel much sympathy for Lady Henrietta or Thea, Lady Netherwood, who are primarily interested only in themselves but had had an affair as Thea was marrying Henrietta's brother. Anna, an artist who refuses to give up her prosperous art business merely because her husband resents her hobnobbing with the rich, is an interesting personality (it is explained that her art business is supporting her husband’s political career, so while his resentment might be understandable it is short-sighted). 

The other two characters I cared about were Eve, who races off to Jamaica to help her brother (improbably as it seems unlikely women of her class and upbringing, even if they could afford it, would jaunt off to Jamaica with a three-year-old- child) and Ruby, the black cook at the hotel in Jamaica who bore a child to Eve’s brother and unexpectedly becomes Eve’s friend. The story leaves a lot of plot elements hanging and concludes with Eve bringing Ruby and her illegitimate nephew back to Yorkshire, which seems unlikely to end happily. Sanderson probably should have written a fourth book, especially as this book created a lot of conflict between characters that had seemingly earned their HEAs earlier in the series.
This is number 15 of my 20 Books of Summer. Yes, I realize I was supposed to read all 20 by August 31st but that didn’t happen and I am persevering. I had to finish it today because I want to donate it to the ship I am on and not carry it back to the United States, so this review is somewhat rushed. It is also my twenty-first book in the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader.
Source: Personal copy

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