25.5.19

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

1925. The war is over and a new generation is coming of age, keen to put the trauma of the previous one behind them.
Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure; to parties and drinking and staying just the right side of scandal. Lawrence Weston is a struggling artist, desperate to escape the poverty of his upbringing and make something of himself.
When their worlds collide one summer night,  neither can resist the thrill of the forbidden, the lure of a love affair that they know cannot possibly last.
But there is a dark side to pleasure and a price to be paid for breaking the rules. By the end of that summer everything has changed,
A decade later, nine year old Alice is staying at Beechcroft with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother's letters to discover the secrets of the past, the truth about the present and hope for the future.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 480

Iona Grey wowed readers with her first book Letters to the Lost. I know that I am not the only one who has been eagerly awaiting for her to write a new book. Here it is, The Glittering Hour, I can say without hesitation that it is a complete triumph.
Everything is so beautifully done, the story, the characters, the cover, the title. I could not find fault with any of it.
The story takes place between the first and second world wars. England was facing great changes and in some ways, the higher classes of society were hit harder than others. Their way of life was scrutinised and picked apart in a way it had not been before. Socialite Selina Lennox is part of a group known as The Bright Young Things. Along with best friends, Theo and Flick, Selina is often photographed clutching a bottle of vintage champagne whilst falling out of well-known London establishments. We begin to learn the reasons for Selina's behaviour and it becomes clear that she is desperate to break free from the gilded cage that she was born into.
Selina meets Lawrence Weston one fateful night and the course of their lives is altered forever. Lawrence is from a totally different world, a poor artist and aspiring photographer, he struggles to pay his rent and Selina's glamorous world is alien to him. The connection between Selina and Lawrence is instant. He adores her and very quickly uncovers the person behind the tabloids and public perception. In Lawrence, Selina finds someone who loves her as she is without question. He wants the best for her without any pretence or ulterior motive. They embark on a dangerous relationship they they know cannot last and by the end of that glorious summer they are both undone.
Selina goes on to marry Rupert Carew, a friend of her brothers. He is straight up and down, exactly the respectable type of man that Selina's mother expected her to marry. Swapping one gilded cage for another, Selina welcomes a daughter, Alice who she is completely besotted with. The story continues nine years later, Selina is travelling abroad with Rupert and Alice has been sent to Selina's childhood home, Beechcroft to stay with her grandparents. Alice, as Selina did, finds Beechcroft cold and oppressing and she misses her mother terribly. With the help of Polly who has been a faithful maid and companion to Selina; Alice begins sending and receiving letters from her mother in the Far East. Selina wants Alice to know how she came to be and sends her on a treasure hunt. Each clue provides a piece of the story and reveals Selina's past whilst securing Alice's future.
I loved the treasure hunt idea and it tied the two parts of the story together beautifully. The relationship between Alice and Selina is so well portrayed, the little girl provided love in Selina's life when everything else was lost.
I felt that Iona Grey perfectly summed up the time period within the book.

It was a time of such change with shifting attitudes and approaches to life. Country Estates such as Beechcroft begin to fall into disrepair as so many workers did not return from the war or simply chose not to once they had experienced a different way of life. Selina is desperate for change too but as a woman she is constrained by position and value. Her heart wants Lawrence and she pays the price for not being able to follow her true desires.
I can't write anymore without giving away spoilers so I shall stop. The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey had me sobbing by the last few pages. I was so invested in the characters and their lives that I felt a little lost when I reached the final page. The Glittering Hour has been more than worth the wait, I know that it is a book I will visit again and again.

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read an advanced copy via Netgalley. 

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