Sometimes you just need an absorbing read that spirits you away to another place and time and connects with the emotions. Harriet Evans’ new book does just that, delving into the family secrets and tragic events that shape the lives of the Wilde family.
Anthony Wilde is the greatest stage actor of his day; his wife Althea has taken a pause from acting to raise her two children, eventually to become a success on television. They are the beautiful couple, with two beautiful children: precocious songbird Cordelia and her sensitive brother Ben(nedict). Every summer they arrive at the Bosky, the house built by Tony’s gambler grandfather, which nestles just above the sand dunes.
Little Madeleine also spends summer at Worth Bay, mistreated by her unhappy father, and living hand-to-mouth, unwashed and underfed. She spies on the Wildes, seeing them as the perfect family, until they take her in.
Underneath the glamour, the Wildes are a mess – a legacy of the war that killed Tony’s parents and his rescue by his eccentric Aunt Dinah, who also abandons the boy for reasons that are only explained at the end of the book. A history of infidelity and misunderstandings dog the younger generation while slowly revealed through the book are the answers to a bunch of mysteries.
Make no mistake, The Wildflowers is a beach read, or a wet winter’s day read, but the characters are well-rounded and easy to empathise with, the story pulls you in and the setting of the Bosky creates a wonderfully atmospheric backdrop. Maybe it is a little melodramatic at times, and it could have been a chapter or two shorter, but I still found the book hard to put down. Four out of five from me.