Publisher: Penguin (14 Feb 2013)
Rosemary McLoughlin elegantly captures period glamour and darkness in Tyringham Park – a brilliant and epic tale of love and loss.
It is 1917 and Charlotte Blackshaw is only eight years old when her little sister Victoria vanishes from the magnificent country estate of Tyringham Park. The feverish search for Victoria soon uncovers jealousies and deceits that the inhabitants of the grand house have fought for years to keep hidden.
As the years pass and her sister’s disappearance casts a long shadow over their lives, Charlotte finds herself embroiled in the passions and secrets, lives and deaths, trysts and betrayals that affect the days of everyone connected to this once great house.
And though she tries to escape, she knows that Tyringham Park and its mysteries will never release their hold on her . . .
We begin our journey in the country, at Tyringham Park in 1917. Edwina Blackshaw (lady of the manor) and Manus (the horse trainer) find Victoria missing from her baby carriage. Edwina knows nothing about her daughter … can she climb? Walk a distance? There’s intrigue straight away as Edwina falsified her date of birth on the official records so we know something has been hidden. Husband Lord Waldren Blackshaw is at London in the War Office and isn’t able to go to Ireland.
Victoria is thought drowned but Edwina has suspicions the seamstress has taken her to Australia with her.
As the search for Victoria continues we get to know our characters. Nurse Dixon, an orphan herself, is hell personified in the way she treats the girls. Lord Waldren is not thought highly of outside the estate due to political alliances. There’s conflict between housekeeper Miss Lily East and Nurse Dixon. We experience a rather heart-wrenching scene involving them both and the doctor. When Edwina goes to London we understand that the relationship she has with Lord Waldren is no relationship at all.
Through 1917 to 1943, Tyringham Park is the story of the Blackshaw family and the misfortune that befalls them. Underneath is the thread of Charlotte and how the loss of Victoria has scarred her and affects how she engages in her world. We spend time on the estate, in the townhouse and in Australia where Charlotte is sent in disgrace after a hasty marriage … and also where Nurse Dixon escapes to after being evicted from the Park.
The characters are solid and believable. I understood and empathised with Charlotte but even though I could be tolerant I wanted to shake her at times. Ultimately I was left with a feeling of deep sadness. That one split second when emotions took over her rational self could only lead her to one place. Her mother, aunt and father’s characters are all fitting with what we would expect from the time period.
The most enjoyable part of the story for me is when Charlotte is inspired by her tutor… for a short time we get a sneak peek to how life could have been for Charlotte when her fear of the world abates… where she expresses herself through art and finds a niche for herself.
This is not a quick read but it is absorbing. Each ‘part’ takes us to a different location. The community in the Australian outback is interesting as is Nurse Dixon’s life in the city. The secrets that are revealed pull all the threads tighter and tighter together leading us along a path of destruction and darkness. Even when we expect there to be a lightness there is another secret in the making.
Tyringham Park truly is an epic debut of darkness – obsessive love, lack of familial love, revenge, death and destruction… and glamour of that time in social history where the landed gentry made up their own rules, where hunts took place and servants knew their place.
I have no hesitation in recommending you add Tyringham Park to your reading list.
I would like to thank the publishers for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Rosemary McLoughlin is also an established artist. Visit her website http://rosemarymcloughlin.com/.