Tyringham Park by Rosemary McLoughlin
Rosemary McLoughlin may be the perfect example of “it’s never too late”. At the age of 70 her first novel, Tyringham Park, has just been published and she’s well into writing a sequel.
I was sent an advance copy of this book by the publisher – thought it sounded rather Downton Abbey-ish and looked forward to a light historical novel –described in one review as “gothic soap opera”.
The story begins in 1917 on an Irish estate, Tyringham, in the countryside - big house, stables, walled garden, maids and nannies of all sorts, a stable and a terribly handsome man, Manus, who looks after the horses. A young wife, Edwina, of an older British military officer, Waldron Blackshaw, who spends most of his time in India – except to come home and impregnate his wife occasionally. Their daughters are Charlotte, about 8 years old when the novel begins, and her sister, Victoria just less than 2 years old.
It is Victoria who is forever at the centre of the novel although she disappears within the first few pages. The mystery surrounding Victoria’s disappearance deeply affects her mother and her sister especially, this tragedy colours their relationships with all of the other characters and is never for a moment forgotten. Edwina is a thoroughly unlikable woman, one feels sorry for her husband and a child born after Victoria’s disappearance, but it is Charlotte who suffers the most abuse.
We follow these characters from 1917, through the First World War and into the Second World War. We travel from Ireland, to England, to Australia and back again. We see Charlotte transform herself into an attractive and accomplished woman – and witness her life long struggle with madness.
Only at the very end do we discover what really happened to Victoria. If I told you all the unfortunate things that happen to so many of the characters in this novel, tragedy after tragedy, you’d have no desire to read it – and I am uncertain why Rosemary McLoughlin felt it necessary for there to be so much unhappiness for so many. It is lightened by good times as life goes on, as she follows the generation of the children. Perhaps some will have a second chance at love in her next novel.
Described as a “fluid storyteller” Rosemary McLoughlin delivers a novel with interesting settings and captivating characters, definitely a novel you want to read to the end in spite of your wish to do some editing as you go along. Published directly into paperback this is a great choice for a long plane trip or several evenings in the tub after these still cold winter days.