Monday, September 12, 2011

The Legacy: A Novel Katherine Webb

The Legacy: A NovelAmazon: When they were children, Erica Calcott and her sister, Beth, spent their summer holidays at Storton Manor. Now, following the death of their grandmother, they have returned to the grand, imposing house in Wiltshire, England. Unable to stem the tide of childhood memories that arise as she sorts through her grandmother’s belongings, Erica thinks back to the summer her cousin Henry vanished mysteriously from the estate, an event that tore their family to pieces. It is time, she believes, to lay the past to rest, bring her sister some peace, and finally solve the mystery of her cousin’s disappearance.

But sifting through remnants of a bygone time is bringing a secret family history to light—one that stretches back over a century, to a beautiful society heiress in Oklahoma, a haunting, savage land across the ocean. And as past and present converge, Erica and Beth must come to terms with two shocking acts of betrayal . . . and the heartbreaking legacy they left behind.

My take: There are two stories leapfrogging the pages of this book.  One is the story of two sisters, Erica and Beth who have come to sort through some of the belongings of the old family mansion. Erica, the younger of the two, is carefree and rootless. She is only held down by her sister's debilitating depression which seems to have begun the summer their cruel cousin, Henry, disappeared. Erica believes that Beth and a boy named Dinny, who camps on the grounds, knows what happened to Henry. Beth believes Erica knows but has blocked it out, thus she is sheltered from the knowledge. Dinny shows up and memories and ancestor's belongings are sorted out.

The other story is about the children's great-grandmother, Caroline, an heiress-to-be when she reached the age of 21. Already she'd suffered a great deal by the death of her parents then of being raised by an emotionally distant aunt. Then she meets a cowboy named Corin Massey. She is smitten. He is smitten. They marry. Aunt B. lectures her then washes her hands and returns to England. Caroline travels to the ranch to be with a husband she barely knows and greets a life she is ill-prepared.

The two stories are thinly connected by emotions and circumstance. While the latter day characters are struggling with loneliness and feelings of inadequacy, Caroline discovers how her social skills and city manners leave her further isolated on a prairie full of cows, coyotes, horses and men. There is also the issue of the missing boys in both stories and they do intersect, eventually, although I didn't feel the connectedness to the two time periods and stories as much as I would have liked. I felt like there was still so much hanging out there and I wanted more closure. 

I found the more recent story to be interesting and I really wanted find out what happened to Henry.  I also wondered what had happened to make Meredith, Caroline's daughter and the girls' grandmother, so mean and unhappy. That part was anticlimactic. 

Back to Caroline, the author provides a description of the prairie and cattle ranching, the loneliness, the nothingness, the vastness and Caroline's deep and enduring love for her husband and struggle for sanity in a world she didn't belong. I felt absolutely moved during the time of Caroline's years on the ranch. My heart felt ripped out and there was an overall feeling of yearning, much as I had when I read These Is My Words. The contrast yet sameness of early 1900 America and twenty-first century England were lonely and gut-wrenching.  I absolutely loved this section of the book. 

The author weaved a beautiful tale of enduring love, loss, coping and healing or surviving into another tale of the protagonist's descendants which provided some closure, answers to questions and an interesting read but not as beautifully written as Caroline's story.

Highly recommend.

4.5 stars

1 comment:

trish said...

Wow. While the novel as a whole sounds good to me, Caroline's part sounds fascinating. The turn of the century is such a fascinating time period, especially for women.

Thanks for being on this tour!