The Flower Book
This is one of the first in the inevitable tsunami of novels soon to hit the bookshops on the centenary of the First World War. At heart it is a fairy story with a wicked villain, a handsome prince, a fairy godmother and a baby – if not swapped at birth, at least with doubtful parentage. In terms of mood it begins as a light Edwardian romance with the most genteel rape you’ll ever read, and then it darkens with the nightmare of World War One, and concludes with a post-war denouement when the truth at last emerges. Violet, protagonist in the early part, keeps a record of her life in the form of a book of pressed flowers and this, when it is eventually handed on to her daughter, Aster, is the key to what took place years previously.
The author plays on the ambiguity of the visual – photographs, paintings, the flower book itself, and how images frozen in time do not necessarily show the truth. An intriguing scene is one that takes place when an old photograph gives up its secret and the daughter then discovers something about her parentage but, more importantly, a certain pressed flower turns out to have greater than decorative significance for everyone. You might feel that this plot device is so drawn out you long to shout out the secret ages before the characters tumble to it, but, plot aside, flower lovers will enjoy the many detailed descriptions and the pretty chapter headings which refer to different flowers, some directly relevant to the story. It has a flowery cover too. Publishers are waking up to the fact that compared to ebooks, a delightful asset of a real book is the way it looks and feels.