I love multi-generational tales so when offered The Summer Country by Lauren Willig – one of my favorite authors – I was more than happy to accept. I thank TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy at no charge for my honest review.
About The Summer Country:
A brilliant, multigenerational saga in the tradition of THE THORN BIRDS and NORTH AND SOUTH, New York Times bestselling historical novelist Lauren Willig delivers her biggest, boldest, and most ambitious novel yet—a sweeping Victorian epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.
Barbados, 1854: Emily Dawson has always been the poor cousin in a prosperous English merchant clan– merely a vicar’s daughter, and a reform-minded vicar’s daughter, at that. Everyone knows that the family’s lucrative shipping business will go to her cousin, Adam, one day. But when her grandfather dies, Emily receives an unexpected inheritance: Peverills, a sugar plantation in Barbados—a plantation her grandfather never told anyone he owned.
When Emily accompanies her cousin and his new wife to Barbados, she finds Peverills a burnt-out shell, reduced to ruins in 1816, when a rising of enslaved people sent the island up in flames. Rumors swirl around the derelict plantation; people whisper of ghosts.
Why would her practical-minded grandfather leave her a property in ruins? Why are the neighboring plantation owners, the Davenants, so eager to acquire Peverills? The answer lies in the past— a tangled history of lies, greed, clandestine love, heartbreaking betrayal, and a bold bid for freedom.
THE SUMMER COUNTRY will beguile readers with its rendering of families, heartbreak, and the endurance of hope against all odds.
About the Author:
Lauren Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several novels. She lives in New York City with her family.
The Summer Country is a sweeping tale of Barbados in the 1800s. It follows several families from different stations from the sugar plantation owners to the business managers to the slaves. The book takes place in two time periods 1812 to 1816 and 1854.
In 1854 Emily Dawson loses her beloved grandfather. He was a force in her life and while others saw him as a hard man Emily loved him. At the reading of his will she and everyone else is very surprised to learn that he left her a sugar plantation on Barbados. Actually, no one even knew he owned it. So she, her cousin Adam and his wife Laura all head to the island; Emily to see her new possession and Adam to take over the the family shipping business.
In Barbados her grandfather’s agent welcomes them but they are surprised to find him to be a black man. In fact he is an ex slave who has done quite well for himself. His nephew, Nathaniel Braithwaite, is there as well – he is an Edinburgh educated doctor and works in the local hospital. Emily is strongly advised to sell her plantation but she wants to see it before she makes any decisions. Nathaniel reluctantly takes her out there and she finds the house is a ruin, a casualty of a slave uprising in 1816. While out visiting the site the neighbor comes to chase away what he thinks are trespassers but soon learns he has a new neighbor.
The Davenants own the neighboring plantation and soon Emily and her cousin and his wife find themselves comfortably ensconced at Beckles under the watchful eye of Mrs. Davenant. She tries to buy Emily’s plantation but she does not want to sell so she agrees to help her learn but instead she insist Emily learn some basics from her grandson. She hopes pushing them together will result in a match.
Emily is a woman who does not need a man to make her world right. She wants to learn what she can of her grandfather’s life on Barbados and what it would take to make her plantation run again – without using slaves. What she does learn is a family history she was not expecting.
Oh what a story. Or maybe I should say stories. I was enthralled from the first page and I will tell you right now that I had the world’s worst time putting this book down to go to sleep. I read a quarter of it one evening and finished it the next day. I didn’t want it to end. I found myself so wrapped up in this world created by Ms. Willig that I wanted to stay.
I didn’t know anything about Barbados and its history. The Summer Country gives a small peak into it but it is a character driven book and the characters and their stories are compelling. Love, hate, revenge, and redemption all play out against the backdrop of this beautiful tropical island. I felt like I was there with Emily, riding among the sugar cane. The plot twists are surprising and the ending was a delight.