The Fairfax Legacy

Written by Pamela Oldfield
Review by Mary Seeley

The story opens in 1921, with eight-year-old Elena Fairfax eavesdropping on a quarrel between her parents, Oscar and Hermione. “When the truth comes out, it will ruin her life!” her mother shouts. Elena, of course, does not understand, but she is already troubled by Hermione’s apparent dislike and has turned to her father, and to her nanny, Miss Franks, for affection. When Hermione gives birth to a son, James, Elena is overjoyed, but we already know this is a family with secrets, and what should be a happy event precipitates a series of crises that almost destroys the family.

The novel captures the upper-middle class world of the Fairfaxes with just the right amount of period detail, but there are a couple of rather far-fetched and convenient plot twists and the multiplicity of viewpoints (sometimes from very minor characters) proved distracting at times. This form of narrative does, however, lend a poignancy to Elena’s story, as we, too, eavesdrop on the adults surrounding her, and know what she cannot, or can only partially, understand.

Elena is an engaging character, both as a child, as the young woman we encounter in the concluding chapters, set in 1939 and 1946, for whom we hope for a happy ending.