CuteBadger's Reviews > Season of Light

Season of Light by Katharine McMahon
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's review
Jan 05, 2012

it was ok
Read from January 02 to 04, 2012

A young English woman, Asa Ardleigh, travels to Paris in 1788 with her sister and brother-in-law. While there she becomes ever more sure of her egalitarian political views and is swept up in a romance with Didier Paulin, a dashing French lawyer who is fighting for changes to society. On her return to England her family try to persuade her to consider marrying someone else, and employ a French widow to teach her some feminine accomplishments to make her more marriageable. Some time later, however, her French lover sends for her to join him in France and Asa must decide where her future lies.

I hadn’t read any of Katherine McMahon’s other novels, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book. I was drawn to a quote by Kate Mosse on the cover, which says that McMahon’s writing is “on a par with Sarah Waters”. Having read the book I’m afraid I can’t say I agree with Ms Mosse. While I quite enjoyed “Season of Light” I found it to be more of a romance novel than a serious look of the French Revolution, the politics of the time or women’s place in society. It was more fluffy than gritty or realistic, and seemed more akin to Georgette Heyer than to Sarah Waters.

On the positive side, the novel is well written and the lead character, Asa, is sympathetic, if somewhat self-centred at times. The French scenes, both pre- and post-Revolution, are engaging, though a little less squalid that they would have been in reality. The plot has many twists and turns which keep you reading, but which are mostly fairly obvious. There are no real big surprises.

The use of real life historical figures in fiction is always a difficult one to pull off – it’s easy to end up with dialogue along the lines of, “Why, here comes Mr Byron, the scandalous poet. And who’s that with him? Shelley you say?”. This novel doesn’t make that mistake, but the use of the some of the well-known names from the Revolutionary era does feel forced at times .

All in all, then, I did quite enjoy reading the novel, but didn’t find it wonderful or terrible, just pleasant enough and somewhere in-between the two extremes. I don’t think I’ll feel the need to read any of her other books.

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