- Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date:
- 07 June 2012
- Historical Fiction
Showing 1-3 out of 3 reviews.
This book follows two women who live in a mansion on Park Lane: Bea, the single, recently jilted, daughter who still lives at home, and Grace, working as a housemaid despite her secretarial training because her lower class, northern accent bars her from London office work. Both Grace and Bea have secrets; Grace has told her family that she’s doing respectable office work rather than being a maid; Bea is joining her aunt as a follower of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, while Bea’s mother has long supported the non-violent suffragists. Bea and Grace are at the opposite ends of the social hierarchy in the house- and personality. Bea is an excitement junkie; loving fast cars and motorcycles, the thrilling fear at the suffragette rallies, fast ambulance driving practically on the front, and meeting a man who is ‘not of her class’. Grace seeks safety and worries constantly about not living up to family expectations. Divided into years, the story covers 1914 to 1923 (with a gap between 1918 and 1923). This is a tumultuous age in England; WW I, socialism and the women’s suffrage movement all changed the lives of rich and poor alike. There is violence at the suffragette rallies, incredible loss of life in the trenches of WW I, post traumatic stress for both men and women (who drive ambulances in the war zones and nurse the torn up men), class differences come to mean a *little* less, and women gain more freedom well before they get the vote. I enjoyed the book- I find the era fascinating (while a fan of Downton, I first was introduced to the era when PBS ran ‘The Forsyte Saga’ way back around 1970) and Osborne knows the time intimately- she had to, to write the brilliant biography ‘The Bolter’- and she has a great power of description. But I feel the book could have been better. Bea comes off as rather hard and it’s difficult to sympathize with her. Grace likable enough, but passages about things she goes through that should make us terrified for her are a bit flat. One character who connects the two women, Grace’s brother Michael, seems like he was created only to connect them- he’s introduced as a socialist, a budding writer, but he doesn’t really do anything with it. A subplot about sneaking books out of the house to him starts out extremely tense but is allowed to peter out to nothing. Because of these faults, I’m afraid I can only give the book four stars. But remember that this is Osborne’s first fiction book- when that’s taken into consideration, it’s pretty great.
I've been fascinated with World War I and the years following it. This fascination goes beyond my fondness for Downton Abbey, Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series and the Charles Todd series of Detective Inspector Ian Rutledge, Bess Crawford mysteries. So when given the opportunity to read another well regarded book set in the period, I grabbed at the chance.Park Lane is largely told from two perspectives: that of Bea Masters from "upstairs" whose family is known for its railroad money and Grace, a young girl working as a second housemaid in the Masters household.We are first introduced to Grace and learn that she's entered service without informing her family. Her own mother's family owned textile mills but the family fortune has long since dissipated and while Grace has trained to serve as a secretary, she has had no luck securing a position. It was after weeks of unemployment that she resorted to applying as a housemaid. Her fellow servants regard her with some suspicion as they can tell she's no experience in service. Grace keeps up a good front, hiding her position from her family, sending money home to help support her parents and younger siblings, and in her time off trying to improve her typing and secretarial skills. As Grace settles into life at Park Lane, she finds herself slowly growing accustomed to the life and fighting a romantic entanglement until the War breaks.When we meet Bea Masters, she is recovering from a bad love affair and is looking for purpose. She falls in with the more extreme Suffragettes and begins clandestinely assisting them in their more daring exploits. Encounters with the police, violence, escapes, and a chance meeting with a young man leads Bea to an unexpected path. The War breaks her ties with the Suffragettes and she volunteers to drive ambulances in France.While I sympathized with Grace, I quickly grew impatient with and frustrated with Bea. This detracted from my enjoyment of Park Lane. However, the book seems to reflect the period quite well and I'd recommend it to others who are fond of historical fiction.ISBN-10: 0345803280 - Paperback $15.95Publisher: Vintage (June 12, 2012), 336 pages.Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program and the publisher.
We start out with two very different women in 1914, the privileged Beatrice and the housemaid Grace who both reside at 35 park Lane. As do most wealthy women of that era who are not occupied with a family of their own they tend to get bored as does Bea & to her credit she does want to make a difference so she takes up the cause of the suffragettes with a little enticing by her wild and mysterious aunt Celeste (whom I really enjoyed & would have loved to read more about!) she becomes very involved much to her family’s chagrin. Both women move through time each of then taking on the concerns of the era, both falling in love and not realizing just how close they come in their very separate lives. It seemed Bea’s relationship with the “impoverished lawyer’ was uncomfortable for her as well as me and I could not quite figure out why she seemed so drawn to him or him to her? I enjoyed the first half of the book but, as I got to the second half ...I became kind of lost, it was confusing, very slow going and seemed to bounce around in time. I think had the author focused on either the suffragettes or the war as opposed to both it might have been more interesting. The ending made me crazy as well, I mean… what the heck Grace? And come on Michael…speak up man! All in all it was an interesting if not slightly irritating read!3 stars is generous...
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