Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Ravenscliffe by Jane Sanderson

The Edwardian era in England was a time of great change, rife with social and political upheaval. Jane Sanderson's Ravenscliffe, the sequel to her Netherwood, is set in this transitional time period and populated with characters who highlight both the old and the new, working class, aristocracy, and a new breed of self-made man. And although I've read the first book in the series (there's another already out in England called Eden Falls), this second novel could certainly stand on its own.

Eve Williams is fresh off her culinary success in London, returned to Yorkshire and back to running the quite successful Eve's Puddings and Pies, and at the urging of her closest friend Anna, contemplating leasing a much larger house, Ravenscliffe on Netherwood Common. So much has changed in her life, so quickly and shockingly, almost all of it for the better since her beloved husband died in a mining accident. She found a way to support her family, she was befriended by the paternally benevolent Earl of Netherwood, and she discovered a deep and abiding love for the second time in her life. But there are struggles too. Her son Seth refuses to accept her fiancĂ©, Daniel, and determined to hurt his mother the best way he knows how, he signs on to work in the mines as soon as he turns twelve. Her younger brother Silas reappears in her life and although she is thrilled, he and his newfound success, wealth, and attitude drive a wedge into the community, and more importantly between Eve and her dearest friends, Anna and union organizer Amos.

As Eve and her family and friends adjust to all the personal changes they face, the tenor in the big house is also changing. After another horrific mining accident, the Earl, although always counted among the "good" mine owners as far as that goes, sees the benefit and importance of modernizing his mine and increasing safety measures. His intelligent daughter Henrietta, still shut out from the running of most things or even just involvement because of her sex, is really the driving force behind moving the Earl into this new mindset. Heir Toby is captivated by the insouciant American, Thea, and determined to marry her despite his mother's disapproval. And Clarissa, the Countess of Netherwood, is as insulated in her cozy world of privilege as ever, concerned only with making certain that the King's long-awaited visit is a raging success and a feather in her cap socially.

These two very different worlds, working class and aristocracy both face the timely challenge of tradition versus innovation not only in people (the cosseted Clarissa and the brash Thea) but also in a wider sense. Politically the landscape is changing with suffragettes making slow but undeniable progress toward the vote, the Labor Party gaining in strength, unions increasing in influence, and a whole new breed of man like Silas rising up from the working class to find huge success and parlay that into their own jealously guarded empires. As was the case in Netherwood, Sanderson has brought this corner of Yorkshire to life through the landscape, the voices of the characters, and the tensions rising in it. Sanderson has fallen back on a few stereotypes here and there but over all the story is an engaging one and it was good to see the Netherwood characters once again. This is not a bonnet drama but rather a worthy successor to them, a well done period piece with a wonderful authenticity of setting. Historical fiction fans will enjoy it quite a lot.

For more information about Jane Sanderson and the book, check out her website or follow her on Twitter. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

1 comment:

  1. Books like this help me picture myself living in a different time and place and I love it. Sounds like this series would be a good fit for me!

    Thanks for being on the tour.


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