Stevie Carroll's Reviews > The Glittering Hour

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey
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it was amazing
bookshelves: reviewed-elsewhere

Previously reviewed on The Good, The Bad, and The Unread:

I loved Iona Grey’s debut novel, particularly its time-slip elements, so I was delighted to discover quite early on that this story followed a similar story, albeit with the two timelines separated by only one decade rather than several. The novel’s present day takes place in the 1930s as nine-year-old Alice struggles to keep up with her lessons from the governess appointed by her grandparents after she came to stay with them. Alice’s father is abroad on business – inspecting his ruby mines in Burma – and Alice’s mother has gone with him. Alice is an accomplished artist, but that doesn’t please her grandparents who would rather she excelled, or even was averagely good, at more academic subjects. Fortunately Alice has an ally in the form of Polly, her mother’s former maid, who has returned to the household to take care of Alice in her mother’s absence. Polly comes up with the idea that Alice should write more interesting letters to her mother than those supervised by her grandmother, and soon a reply comes to Alice’s first one – via Polly – with exciting stories and the prospect of a treasure hunt.

In parallel with Alice’s tribulations, and her cheerier attempts to unravel the clues sent to her by her mother – with prizes hidden by Polly that hold more clues to how Alice’s parents met – we watch the story of Selina, Alice’s mother, in the 1920s, as she and her friends live a hedonistic life of parties, cocktails, and treasure hunts. On one of the treasure hunts, Selina quite by chance meets Lawrence – a portrait artist, who dreams of gaining fame and fortune from his photography, rather than through painting idealised images of young men who died in the War. The two are very taken with each other, and soon their paths cross again: with the help of other artists and Lawrence’s socialist journalist friend, who disapproves of the ‘bright young people’ but is able to clue Lawrence in on where they might be on any given evening.

The pair contrive – with Polly’s help – to spend some time together at Selina’s parents’ home while the rest of her family are away, and they discuss the possibility of running away together. Then tragedy strikes Selina’s group of well-off friends, and she chooses the safe option of marrying a rich older man – friend to her brother who died in the war – after spending one last night with Lawrence.

Heartbroken, Lawrence emigrates to the US, where he finds an audience for his photography, and tries to forget Selina. She, meanwhile, is caught up in the excitement of her new daughter, although her marriage leaves a lot to be desired. Her happiness is to be short-lived, however.

I picked up the hints that Selina, in her letters to Alice, at least, was an unreliable narrator, but that didn’t detract from the wonder of this story. I felt for Alice, stuck in her drab life, especially when it became clear that her mother wasn’t coming back for her any time soon, but then I grew excited for the possibility of a very different happy ending. And my hopes were repaid in full. This was a fabulous book, and I’m looking forward to rereading it once I can get my hands on a physical copy.

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Reading Progress

May 18, 2019 – Shelved
May 18, 2019 – Shelved as: reviewed-elsewhere
Started Reading
May 19, 2019 – Finished Reading

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