Why has a secret from 1914 caused a century of heartache?
Troubled by recent loss, Grania Ryan has returned to Ireland and the arms of her loving family. And it is here, on a cliff edge, that she meets a young girl, Aurora, who will profoundly change her life.
(An excerpt of the cover text)
This book has 543 pages.
The timeline goes from 1914 to 2012.
It was first published in 2011.
What is the book about?
This book tells the story of two families, the Ryans and the Lisles, whose stories have twined together through a series of unfortunate events that started back in 1914, and caused the families to develop a deep hatred for each other, and a secret, they did not want to tell their children. And Grania, who comes home from New York, troubled from the loss of her baby and finds the eight years old Aurora Devonshire, a young girl troubled by the loss of her mother. This book also tells of Matt Connelly, Granias boyfriend, who she left in New York and refuses to talk to. This is also the story of Mary Benedict, an Irish orphan, and Granias great grandmother, and her tales of love and loss in a war-ravaged world.
Is this a true story?
No, this story if fictive, but the author has made great research, to make the part of the story that is placed in the past as timely as possible.
A cast of the most relevant characters:
Aurora Devonshire: Aurora is in many ways the main character of the book, she is also the one telling the story and occasionally throughout the book, there are pages where she speaks directly to the reader. At the beginning at the book, we learn that Aurora is dying, and therefore wishes to write down the story of her family. Her mother was Lily Lisle, and her father was Alexander Devonshire.
Grania Ryan: Grania is the daughter of Kathleen and John Ryan, and after losing her baby, she flees back to Ireland from New York, where she was living with her boyfriend Matt. Grania is by several occasions asked to look after Aurora when her father is away on his “business trips”. Her mother does not like that Grania gets involved with the Lisles, and Grania must learn the secret of the past. Grania grows to care a lot for Aurora, maybe even love her. Grania works as a sculptor.
Kathleen Ryan: She is Granias mother, and she also has a son, Shane. Kathleen does not like the Lisles much, due to something that happened long time ago, and she also has a personal experience that she will never forgive the Lisles for. She is frightened that now that Grania has got herself involved with the Lisles the past will repeat itself, but after meeting Aurora she too grows to like her.
Matt Connelly: Matt was Granias boyfriend when she lived in New York. He is devastated after Grania left, and drives himself crazy trying to think of a reason why she left. The only thing that’s helps him through is his childhood friend Charley, a girl whom he eventually finds out has loved him all her life.
Alexander Devonshire: Alexander was Auroras father, and was often on what he told his daughter and Grania was business trips. Alexander suffered a great pain from when his wife, Lily killed herself, and he realized not long after that he didn’t really know anything about her past and he’s desperate to find out. After a while Grania suspects that he also has a big secret of his own.
Aurora tells us that she does not have long time left, and that she wants to tell us the story of her family. The story begins with Grania, who’s just came home to West Cork, Ireland after losing her baby, and leaving her boyfriend behind for reasons only she knows, sees a little girl standing in her nightgown at the very edge of the cliffs as it was blowing up to storm. She tries to talk to the girl, but it doesn’t seem like the girl is noticing her at all.
After a while the girl runs home, and so does Grania. There, she asks her mother if she knew who the girl was, but the moment she mentioned it, her caring, empathic mother turned cold and after telling her that the child was Aurora Lisle she refused to talk more about it. Grania meets Aurora again, and they decide to meet up again to do something. Kathleen does not like this, but as her daughter is a big girl now, she must make her own decisions. Ever since she came to Ireland, Matt had tried to call Grania, but she refused to talk to him, and as she spend more and more time with Aurora, she started to forget. When Grania meets Auroras father, Alexander, she found herself unbelievably attracted to him, but soon suspected that Alexander had a great secret. Kathleen gets more and more worried that the past will repeat itself, and decides, with help from her husband John, to tell Grania what happened to make her understand why she was worried. And one time, when Grania took Aurora to one of her first ballet lessons, Kathleen gives Grania a bunch of letters that would explain the first part of it.
Now we learn of Mary Benedict, who is to be married to Sean Ryan, but as it is 1914, Sean is called up to fight the war. Mary, heartbroken, went back to her job as a parlor maid at the Lisle residence. Her master, Sebastian Lisle, the landlord, recommended her after a while for a similar job in London, as they were there missing many, due to the war. She took it, knowing that when Sean had his days free, that’s where he would be. She did it well in London, looking forward to the day the war would end, and she would get her beloved Sean back. Her new master, Lawrence Lisle, one day brought home a baby girl, who they suspected to be from Russia, and since Mary had helped looking after the younger kids at the orphanage where she was brought up, she was put in charge of the baby, Anna. The war was ending, but in the summer 1918, Sean died in battle, and Mary no longer knew what to do. So when Lawrence Lisle offered her a permanent position as Annas maid she took it.
A little while later Kathleen told Grania another bit of the story.
Mary grew to love Anna as if she was her own daughter, so when Mr. Lisle married a witch, who wanted to send Anna to a boarding school, she turned out to hate, Mary decided to tell them she was dead and take care of her herself. This went just well, and a couple months later she met a man, Jeremy Langdon, who suffered from shock from the war. They fell in love and got married. Anna, had a real talent for ballet, and her dream was to become a ballerina, a dream she achieved. Jeremy and Mary legally adopted Anna, and also got a daughter of their own, Sophia, Granias grandmother. Anna and Mary fell more and more apart, and one day Anna took of and they didn’t have any contact for years. 1039 was closing up, and Jeremy went more and more paranoid by the day that he might get called out again. Just as the war had begun, he killed himself, and Mary and Sophia moved back to Ireland.
Grania now started to realize why her mother was worried, but she wouldn’t let the past affect her. Meanwhile, in New York, Matt had almost lost himself in misery, and Charley had moved in, since her own apartment was renovated. One night, Charley manages to take Matt out with their old friends to have a drink. This drink ends up in Matt waking up in his bed, naked, with Charley lying next to him. When he then finds out Charley is pregnant, his whole life gets out of course, and after telling Charley that he does not love her, he decides to try to call Grania one more time, but when Aurora answers the phone telling him Grania has married her father and that they now were on their honeymoon he flips, and tells Charley he actually loves her and preparing to live a life he didn’t want.
But Grania didn’t marry Alexander because she loved him, but because she learned his secret, and it was necessary to do so in order for her to adopt Aurora.
But is it too late? Will Grania and Matt make their mistakes right again? What happened after Mary and Sophia went back? Why can Kathleen never forget the Lisles? And, since it seems that everyone has a secret, what is Charleys? And will Matt find it out in time? What was Alexanders secret? Why did Grania marry him? What happened to Aurora? And, will the past repeat itself?
If you want to know, you will have to read the book.