Next month sees the publication of Harriet Evans’ tenth novel, The Wildflowers. Whilst I am familiar with this author, this was the first of her books that I have read. This was a book which promised decades of family secrets, so it was one that I was drawn to, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to review it!
The events in this novel surround a glamorous, high profile family – the Wilde family. Parents Tony and Althea Wilde are familiar faces, both actors who are known to many. Together they have two children, Cordelia and Benedick for whom they have provided a comfortable and happy life, anything a child could wish for. However, there is more to this family than meets the eye, and as their story progresses we begin to delve deeper into the lives of the characters both in the past and the present day, with plenty of secrets to be uncovered along the way. The family spend their summers together at an idyllic house by the beach, a far cry from their usually hectic lives and complex relationships. I enjoyed the contrast between the peaceful setting and the dramatic events in the lives of the characters as they unfold. And when a girl named Madeleine arrives one summer, the Wilde family take her under their wing, and her arrival signals a change for the family, as this is a girl who herself has an interesting story to tell.
I always enjoy stories which focus on long hidden secrets and dramatic family sagas and in that respect The Wildflowers certainly doesn’t disappoint. The story switches back and forth through time, as we are introduced to the family through the seventies and eighties whilst also reflecting back on Tony’s childhood growing up during the war. I liked this aspect of the story, as it helped to build up a picture of the family’s past and helped to explain why characters behave in certain ways. The Wilde family appear on the outside as the perfect family, but of course beneath the surface there is a vulnerability, and the prospect of strong bonds becoming broken. The central themes in this novel are of family relationships, love and loss, loyalty and infidelity. We are introduced to fascinating, flawed characters, and see how their flaws impact them as individuals and as a family. We also see what life is like for a family in the limelight, and how they maintain their relationships, and their own creative endeavours under complex circumstances. At over 500 pages, this is quite a lengthy read, and I did find the pacing a little slow in parts for my own preference, but the story is wonderfully written, and rich in detail with plenty to savour.
The Wildfowers is an enjoyable read about family dynamics through the years and how a family are impacted by the secrets that threaten to creep to the surface. A perfect read for anyone who enjoys stories focusing on family life through the years! The Wildflowers is to be published on 5th April 2018 by Headline, with thanks to the publisher for providing a proof copy for review.