The Echo of Twilight

Written by Judith Kinghorn
Review by Jeanne Greene

Shortly before WWI, a working-class Englishwoman accepts a position as personal maid to a titled lady. The two become friends but, like the world of upper-class privilege they share, the friendship cannot survive.

Pearl Gibson knows little about her father; her mother died the day Pearl was born. Pearl grows up lonely but self-sufficient and, although war with Germany seems certain, she readily agrees to accompany her employer, Lady Ottoline Campbell, to her summer home in Scotland. August is a beautiful but stressful month for Pearl as she gets to know the lovely, eccentric Ottoline; her often-absent husband, their two handsome sons; Ralph, Ottoline’s cousin (and maybe lover); and household staff. Pearl is even falling in love—and then war is declared. The men are called away one by one, leaving Pearl and Ottoline in Scotland. Isolated and virtually alone, they forget class differences to save each other from harm, share each other’s grief, and keep each other’s secrets. However, competition makes friendship impossible.

Television has made it difficult to write an original novel about a British lady’s maid during WWI. Kinghorn’s characters all seem familiar—except Pearl. The protagonist of The Echo of Twilight is strong enough to make readers care what happens to her and read until the last page. And isn’t that the definition of a good book? Those who agree will also enjoy Kinghorn’s backlist, which includes The Last Summer (2015).