Nicci Gerrard is one half of crime writing partnership Nicci French. I never knew she was a writer in her own right, and was for a long time before her books with husband Sean French. The Twilight Hour is therefore the first Nicci Gerrard book I’ve read, and I’m pretty certain it won’t end up being the last!
Another 20th C history romance sage thinger (seem to be getting through a lot of them lately, must be the weather), this book is a nice, accessible but touching read that accompanied me on a recent nightmare train journey to London, during which the people in front of me were upgraded to first class to accommodate a screaming child who had previously been in the quiet coach… you can imagine my joy.
Fortunately I was immersed in the story of Eleanor Lee, ninety-odd, certified blind, and desperate to hide her hidden mysterious past from her family before she dies. On the advice of her grandson she employs Peter, a young man who has just emerged from a disastrous relationship and himself feels very lost and alone, to go through her books, letters, and photographs, and find the things she would rather her family didn’t.
The mystery itself isn’t that mysterious, but I suppose to a real family rather a fictional one it would be. To be honest I was looking for something slightly more sensational that what was found, but I won’t spoiler it for you. This is genuinely a lovely, if slightly tame book, and if you are a fan of war time romance and decent writing I would recommend it.
Eleanor herself is a wonderfully drawn character, as are the female members of her family. You really do see her motivations for how she behaves; there was one situation in particular that made me feel really wrung out for her, as a character study this book is exemplary. The men, however, fall a little flat and are a little stock-hero in places. It did make me think about what we leave behind and what affect that could have on those around us-your perceptions of those you love do change after their death especially when you learn more about the person. I remember learning stuff about my grandparents after they passed on that completely made me see them in a different-in fact more impressed- light.
The Independent describes Gerrard’s writing as ‘unpretentious and page turning’, which just about summed up this book for me. Published at just the right time this would make a cracking half term treat or, as I’ve already said, a wonderful train book. A rainy day curl-up-by-the-fire-and-devour. It also makes you want to drink good wine and eat game pie, so have some to hand if you can.