Thursday, August 19, 2010

Review: Lord of the Far Island, by Victoria Holt

Pages: 329

Original date of publication: 1975

My edition: 2009 (St. Martin’s Press)

Why I decided to read: Amazon recommendation

How I acquired my copy:, November 2009

Ellen Kellaway, orphaned at a young age, lives with her cousin Agatha and her family Ellen has constantly been told that she’s the Poor Relation and that therefore the best she can hope for is a post as a governess or companion. When she receives a marriage proposal from the son of a wealthy London family, Ellen’s life seems set to improve. But the death of her fiancée leads to an invitation that Ellen can’t refuse, and she goes to Cornwall to stay with her guardian, Jago. True to Victoria Holt form, her guardian’s invitation leads to much danger for our heroine.

Victoria Holt’s novels tend to be rather formulaic, which is why they work so well—for the most part. The downside is that her novels are rather predictable—if you’ve read anything else by her, you’ll know that things turn out rather well for Ellen in the end. There’s a lot less suspense in this novel than in some of Holt’s other novels, and the romance occurs rather too quickly to be believable to me. For most of the novel, Ellen doesn’t trust Jago much, but when she discovers that he’s not what she thought he was, she realizes she’s in love with him? It didn’t make much sense to me. Also, I never know if this is supposed to be historical fiction (Ellen wears a bonnet and they ride in hansom cabs) or if it’s contemporary setting (Ellen has complete freedom to go about on her own, especially when she obtains the key to the house she and Philip are interested in and goes there by herself).

Still, Holt is a good writer—there are a number of really good twists in the plot, and she paces things well. There are a lot of questions about Ellen’s family that are answered satisfactorily in the end, though the author wrapped things up too quickly for me. There’s a very magical feeling about the tone of this novel that I enjoyed as well. It seems that Cornwall is a place that fuels a lot of writers’ imaginations, and Lord of the Far Island is no exception, since it’s very evocative of the place. I had a lot of fun reading this novel, since it’s the perfect kind of book to read during the summertime. If you’re new to reading Victoria Holt’s novels, I’d suggest reading Mistress of Mellyn before this one.

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