by Susanna Kearsley
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: August 7, 2018
It’s late summer, war is raging, and families are torn apart by divided loyalties and deadly secrets. In this complex and dangerous time, a young French Canadian lieutenant is captured and billeted with a Long Island family, an unwilling and unwelcome guest. As he begins to pitch in with the never-ending household tasks and farm chores, Jean-Philippe de Sabran finds himself drawn to the daughter of the house. Slowly, Lydia Wilde comes to lean on Jean-Philippe, true soldier and gentleman, until their lives become inextricably intertwined. Legend has it that the forbidden love between Jean-Philippe and Lydia ended tragically, but centuries later, the clues they left behind slowly unveil the true story.
And then sunrise had come – not a gradual brightening, but all at once, unexpectedly, piercing the clouds in a single, straight, glorious beam of clear light that had warmed him and brought his cold limbs back to life.
He’d felt that again at the moment she’d come through the door of the kitchen.
Bellewether was … just alright. I’ve loved Susanna Kearsley novels so I was going into it with high expectations & unfortunately it did not take me long to realize that this would not be my favorite Kearsley book.
Bellewether is told from three perspectives. Charley is living in the present, working at the historical Wilde house turned museum & trying to piece together the true story of Lydia Wilde and Jean-Philippe de Sabran, whose forbidden love in 1759 was rumored to end tragically. At the same time, she is dealing with her own tragedies: the death of her brother, a struggling relationship & an emotional estrangement from her Grandmother.
But among Charley’s story we are thrown into the past as Lydia & Jean-Philippe’s histories unravel. It was here that the story began to lose me. After only a few chapters in 1759, I became bored with this story-line. I do not think that Kearsley did herself any favors by giving away so much of the novel in the very beginning. It was expected that there would be some sort of hidden truth revealed in the end, and certainly that did not disappoint, but it just was not enough to justify lagging through literally hundreds of pages where you knew exactly what was going to happen.
It was once thing to think about ghosts in the abstract. It was another to be sitting here now in my office, and feel the crawling sense of certainty that I was not alone.
And then (unfortunately again) about halfway through the novel, Charley’s story also began to bore me. There was a love interest introduced early on that was so obvious I was counting pages waiting for her current relationship to end. And then Kearsley overdid it… One of my pet peeves in novels is when an author makes the “wrong” boyfriend/girlfriend so unbearably unlikable that it reflects badly on the main character for choosing someone so (obviously) awful. Even though we are thrown into the tail end of Charley’s relationship with Tyler, we only ever see him as a jerk. He literally did nothing nice in the entire novel. Why was Charley with him to begin with? It make me think she was an idiot (which I hate to think about anyone).
One thing I really loved about Bellewether is how Kearsley created mirrors in the past and present. We were clearly living through the same seasons – if it was raining in one, so was it in the other. At one point, there was a dance in both story-lines. I thought this mirroring was clever. I also loved the Wilde house ghost – who was probably the most interesting character in the entire novel.
I’d like to say that the ending was amazing & it really made up for the slow start & mediocre middle, but that would be untrue. The ending just sort of happened, the reveal not surprising enough to really make a difference.
I like historical novels and if you are interested in the Seven Years War/French and Indian War, then you would appreciate the history. If not, I recommend skipping this one.
“My grandmother,” he told me, “had a theory about doors. Whenever things were going wrong, she’d have my stepdad come and hang a new door for her. He’d tell her she was nuts, that doors were doors, but she’d say no door ever opened exactly the same as the last one, the new one was always that little bit different, and anyway it never did any harm to walk through a new door now and then, and see where you end up.”
2 1/2 Spades