14 May 2009

Palace Circle by Rebecca Dean

Description from Publisher's Weekly: From London to Cairo, in the glittery world of high society before WWII, Dean taps into an exotic and distant world in her page-turning debut. After 18-year-old Virginia belle Delia marries older British aristocrat Ivor Conisborough, they decamp to London and get to work on producing an heir for the aging viscount. Delia is agog at her new friends in high places, but her idyll is trampled when she learns a painful secret about Ivor. Even so, Delia is endlessly infatuated with London, and she eventually has two girls, Petronella and Davina. The family, to Delia's chagrin, is relocated to Cairo on a long diplomatic mission ... Davina and Petronella, meanwhile, grow into young women who think of Cairo as home and fall in love with men they meet there."

I really wanted to like this book, but ultimately I was just very disappointed. Divided into 5 sections, one for each of the main characters, the story remained superficial and the characters for the most part poorly developed. Though the narrative contains vast leaps forward in time, it still manages to drag.

The most interesting elements of the book were its historical glimpses of the Windsor court and of society in colonial Egypt - it was these settings which drew me to the book in the first place. I'm not sure of Dean's historical accuracy, though, as she seems to take quite a bit of license with a variety of famous names and places.

I suppose as a light-hearted period piece, Palace Circle succeeds, recounting one family's journey through time and war. I give it 2.5 stars - for me, this book just didn't deliver all that it had promised.

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