The Web and the Wing
The Great War is over, but nothing at Ardleagh Hall will ever be the same. Instead of coming home for Easter, Austen, eldest son of the Earl of Eglington, had lost his life at Arras, leaving his younger brother heir to the title, estates and mines. James had dreamt of life as a musician, an aviator, a scientist, of marrying for love and of choosing his own destiny – dreams shattered in a moment. Spanish politics are in tumult; the fall of the German and Austrian monarchies sparking a wave of Communist and Anarchist uprising. Alva, Duke of Arradova, knows that the safest place for his family is their country home at Seville – but his headstrong English wife has other ideas.
After eight year-old Claire’s father died in the Brackworth mine tragedy of 1908, she went to live with her aunt who was in service at Ardleagh. Now a young woman, Claire has come back to join the household, but she mourn the loss of those innocent childhood days. The housekeeper has been told to have everything back to normal for Christmas – but can it ever be normal again?
There are three strands to this story; the Lancashire coalfields, the strife-torn cities of Andalucia, and the brittle decadence of interwar Berlin. The book appears meticulously researched, and the author clearly knows the period and the Lancashire landscape, but the volume of information was somewhat overwhelming. The protagonists are well drawn, but are lost in the detail and it was difficult to get to know them well. There are long passages explaining the political background, possibly to justify the characters’ actions and decisions, resulting in the novel being more of a textbook style with a story woven into it, which may interest readers who enjoy factual entertainment over fiction.