Published by Atria Books on February 14, 2012
From Goodreads: For fans of The House at Riverton and Rebecca—a debut spanning from the 1930s to the present day, from a magnificent estate in war-torn England to Thailand, this sweeping novel tells the tale of a concert pianist, Julia, and the prominent Crawford family whose shocking secrets are revealed, leading to devastating consequences for generations to come.
As a child Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park, the great house where her grandfather tended exotic orchids. Years later, while struggling with overwhelming grief over the death of her husband and young child, she returns to the tranquility of the estate. There she reunites with Kit Crawford, heir to the estate and her possible salvation.
When they discover an old diary, Julia seeks out her grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed Wharton Park. Their search takes them back to the 1930s when a former heir to Wharton Park married his young society bride on the eve of World War II. When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt on generations to come.
Lucinda Riley skillfully sweeps her readers between the magical world of Wharton Park and Thailand during World War II with irresistible and atmospheric storytelling. Filled with twists and turns, passions and lies, and ultimately redemption, The Orchid House is a romantic, poignant novel that became an instant bestseller in the UK and Germany.
As an avid Kate Morton fan, I was thrilled to discover an author that was rumored to be similar in style. While I had previously heard the name Lucinda Riley, it wasn’t until this comparison was made that I took the time to find out what books she had written. Even then, I was wary. Morton has a way of weaving rich tales without leaving any loose ends (an amazing feat given what she undertakes) and I wasn’t sure Riley could pull it off. But now that I have finished my first book by her ( thanks to Apocalypse Mama for her giveaway), I can definitely say that a comparison to Morton is warranted.
I would be remiss if I didn’t compare this to House at Riverton because The Orchid House is about two families (one being the “help” that are inextricably linked to the same house, Wharton Park. But, from here I will draw no more comparisons because Riley’s novel is fully capable of standing on its own merit.
Like most good literary fiction, this one starts out slow as it acquaints the reader with the main characters. Fluctuating between generations, Riley does a great job of keeping the reader in the loop and clearly distinguishing between families and lineages (many authors take this for granted and it can detract from the value of the story). The first half of the book develops pretty steadily but loses steam in the second half when it switches its focus to a new character.
The second half seems a bit scattered. It is also very well-developed, but I get the feeling that Riley enjoyed her characters a bit more in the first half. There aren’t any loose ends, per se, but the writing fell a little flat and was missing the spark that drove the first half. Despite this, the book was wonderful. It is a testament to the intricate storyline and the amazing unraveling of the story itself that even the flat writing in the second half is easily overlooked. If you are looking for a book that you can curl up by the fireplace with this winter, then I definitely recommend this book!