“They are not long, the days of wine and roses…” – Ernest Dowson
Nor are the days of summer. But I have been taking advantage of the extra time to read. My summer choices tend to be lighter, more along the lines of a beach read. It’s no accident that publishers release beach reads in the summer, because, well, summer. Anyway, I like books that I can read amid the screams and laughter at the swimming pool as well as in the evening hours when we can sit outside and read while watching fireflies and listening to crickets.
I just finished A Good Year for the Roses, a novel by Gil McNeil, a British writer. I always love a good British novel. The more I read the more I realize that we Southern women have quite a bit in common with our British sisters. There is a strong sense of place, a recognition of the importance of seasons, quirky and humorous turns of phrase, and an abiding sense of loyalty to family. I have also found them to be quite witty. I think we have them on the food though.
The novel is character-driven and reads at a meandering pace. I love that. If you’re looking for a page-turner with lots of plot twists, this isn’t your book. This is about the heart of family and loyalty, returning home, and building a life. It’s also a little about roses and a lot about taking an old family home and giving it new life.
Molly, who is a divorced mother of three, inherits a manor from her aunt much to the dismay of her family. With it she inherits her aunt’s aging husband and his parrot. She moves her boys back to her hometown and takes on the task of reviving Harrington Hall, a manor on the Devon coast.
Molly is funny and she’s creative and she’s not tragic. I think one flaw of women’s literature is that we expect that a women has to become a tragedy before she can rise from the ashes.
Trust me. Divorce, even just a garden-variety divorce, is tragic.
The other flaw of traditional women’s literature is that while the heroine is rebuilding her tragic life she is swept off her feet by a man. You know what someone who is desperately trying to rebuild a life doesn’t need? A romance.
So, it’s uplifting that while there are a couple of encounters with possible romance, the story line does not focus on Molly finding a man. Instead, it’s a story about Molly finding herself.
Here’s what the publisher says about A Good Year for the Roses:
“Gil McNeil’s new novel introduces us to Londoner Molly Taylor, a mom for whom life hasn’t been a bed of roses. Newly divorced and struggling to support her three boys, she’s stunned when her beloved aunt dies and leaves her Harrington Hall, a three-hundred-year-old crumbling manor house on the Devon coast, where Molly grew up. But does Molly really want to run a B&B in an old house where the only thing that doesn’t need urgent attention is her aunt’s beautiful heritage rose garden? Or care for Uncle Bertie, an eccentric former navy officer with a cliff-top cannon? Or Betty, his rude parrot that bites whomever annoys it? You Bet.
But with Molly’s conniving brother running the family hotel nearby, the return of a high school flame with ulterior motives, and three sons whose idea of a new country life seems to involve vast quantities of mud, this is not going to be easy. And then Harrington Hall begins to work its magic, and the roses start to bloom…”
If you are a mom, a DIY-er, a gardener, or you just like a good story about finding your identity and your place, you’ll enjoy McNeil’s novel.
*I received an advanced copy of the novel from Hyperion Books in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.