BOOK CLUB: The Peacock Summer

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Author: Hannah Richell
ISBN: 978-0-7336-4043-8
RRP: $29.99
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
Publisher: Hachette
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

The Peacock Summer is Hannah Richell’s third long awaited novel and it was as breathtaking as the glorious cover. I loved this book, though I can’t say I loved every minute of reading it because some of the subject matter was a little too soul-crushing to love the reading of it but it was an integral part of the story.

I sit here on finishing and mull over the experience, think about the stories and the characters and try to work out what I want to say; what I want to focus on and how to write about this story I was wholly invested in without giving too much away.

Two very different summers six decades apart come to life within the pages, Richell has woven an intensely moving tale that is sure to evoke a maelstrom of emotion. I know I was on an emotional rollercoaster with some pretty tricky turns that I certainly wasn’t expecting.

Lillian is an empathetic young woman orphaned by the war and fostered in a small town in the Chilterns with her injured sister. A chance meeting sees her come into contact with Charles Oberon, soon after she becomes the object of his affection. Before she knows it she’s been swept along and installed at Cloudesley, the manor house of the Oberons, as the new Mrs Charles Oberon with an adorable young stepson Albie.

A few years in and marriage to Charles has not been anything like Lillian thought it would but she has Albie and her sister to care for so she knows that this is the choice she made and it’s one she has to see through, right to the end. She feels like just another of the beautiful objects captured by Charles and displayed in his beautiful manor house with the rest of his things. To enhance his collection Charles commissions an up-and-coming artist to paint a room in an unused wing of the manor; an ambitious task and one that I suspect had more than one hidden agenda. Jack Fincher spends the summer at Cloudesley to paint the room and everything changes.

Sixty years later Maggie Oberon is running from the heartbreak she caused, and has ended up in Australia; about as far as she could get from home, and as different. Maggie might be running from her mistakes but when she receives a call to say Lillian is ill she wastes no time returning to Cloudesley to take care of her. Returning home is bittersweet when nothing is as you remember and the promises you make may not be that simple to keep.

Richell weaves these two timelines into a seamless narrative where Lillian’s reminiscences fade us back to the past to allow her story to unfold. A story that broke my heart, and it got worse before it got better. The Peacock Summer is an historical fiction, largely concerned with events in the mid-1950s but it has elements of love, mystery, passion and secrets. Secrets that have a way of eventually being uncovered and tearing the shades from everything the younger generation thought they knew.

There is a mystery at the heart of The Peacock Summer and I’m still not 100% sure that I worked it out. I thought I did, a couple of times, but when it all came together at the end I’m left wondering if perhaps it wasn’t as I thought. Another way that Richell so deftly demonstrates how deceiving appearances can be, all manner of things can be hidden behind a well executed façade.

The characters in this story are rich and complex, some of their decisions hard to fathom but on the whole it’s hard not to get invested in their lives and their choices. There are a couple of stand-out characters, and one in particular that I found to be rotten to the core. Richell has actually woven two very contrasting situations in that one stayed when it wasn’t right, and she really should have run for the hills; and one who ran when it wasn’t right which damaged a lot of relationships.

The Peacock Summer made me think about love, happiness and the bigger picture. Love comes in so many forms that it can be quite difficult to know what the right choice is sometimes. Love can be selfish but it can be selfless too, where do you rate your own happiness when it comes to a difficult decision that may affect everyone you love. Does lasting love have to be fired by passion. What happens when you settle, only then to discover that soul deep love was just around the corner. I think what I took away is that you need to value yourself and don’t settle, wait for that love that will set your soul on fire and make the most of every moment because you don’t know how many you will get.

I loved, loved, loved this story. Lillian is such a fiercely loyal and loving woman. Her strength is an inspiration and I enjoyed getting to know her, her wandering both broke and warmed my heart.

Maggie has had some very mixed examples set for her in life and it has added to the pressure she found herself under before she took off. The slow unfolding of her story was not what I expected, but it fit perfectly within the story. I grew to love this damaged young woman whose only constant in life was the grandmother who loved her unconditionally.

The close of this book was just perfect, well almost. It brought together all of the strands of the story and resolved them in a way that was satisfying and realistic. It wasn’t the fairytale happy ever after but then, so often in life that’s not what we get. There was definite happiness in the ending and sometimes that has to be enough.

The Peacock Summer is a beautiful tale of love, passion, secrets and the sometimes sinister coveting of beauty. A rich and complex tale to welcome Richell back to the bestsellers list if I’m any judge. A book I would whole-heartedly recommend to everyone.

The Peacock Summer is book #33 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.

Hannah Richell can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and her Website.

The Peacock Summer is published by Hachette and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Hachette 9 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading The Peacock Summer and I look forward to hearing what they thought. Please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

10 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Peacock Summer

  1. Absolutely glorious, from the incredibly beautiful cover to the last line. I can’t thank Beauty and Lace enough for this gorgeous book. “The Peacock Summer” has stories within stories, all bound together by the wonderful character, Lillian. Two summers, decades apart, two women who as young people need to be stronger than they should have to be at times, men who are anything but what they seem, one man who brings love and promise of goodness but can’t deliver through circumstances beyond his control. The way the story winds back and forth without ever losing the thread is masterful.

    The characters are incredibly well drawn, from the beautiful to the downright nasty, masquerading under a cover so clever few realise how cruel and self centred Charles really is but Lillian pushes her own needs aside so that her sister and step son won’t be without support. The true love Lillian finds also involves her in the greatest danger.

    So many “what ifs,” but life isn’t necessarily fair or just. I would have loved Maggie’s story to be a “fairy tale ending” but I know I’m totally unrealistic in that area. I’d love a sequel starring Maggie!!

    Michelle has reviewed as excellently as we expect above and adding anything else would give details that shouldn’t be given as the story winds and twists, often in very different ways to what I expected. The stories are so interwoven but also separate, something that would not be easy to do without an unreal or unnatural feel but Hannah Richell has done this managing to keep the reader involved and a very real and possible thread runs throughout.

    The synopsis of Hannah Richell’s “The Shadow Year” could well apply to “The Peacock Summer” in “a tale that explores the light and dark of human relationships and the potential to not only touch our present, but also to alter the future.” The reader is left with so much to think about. Rarely do I feel that a book can be called “brilliant” but this one is, in my opinion.

    I really am so thrilled to have received this wonderful book from Beauty and Lace. Thank you to Hachette Australia – this is my first Hannah Richell “discovery” but it will definitely not be may last. I absolutely loved it!

  2. Maggie Oberon returns home from Australia to Cloudesley , a grand old manor house, after a phone call advising of her grandmother Lillian’s admission to hospital.
    Maggie is far from happy to returning to the family home; not because she doesn’t love her grandmother, who raised her, but because of her past mistakes within the small village surrounding Cloudesley.
    Lillian is not quite the same person when Maggie takes her home to Cloudesley to care for her. There is a past that keeps returning to haunt Lillian’s dreams and there is nothing she can do to make right what has happened all those years ago.

    Cloudesley is falling down around them but it is Lillian’s wish to remain in the house in her final years and Maggie is determined to make sure her grandmother’s last wish is adhered to.

    Lillian married Charles Oberon at 21 and was overwhelmed with the manor house and the lavish lifestyle which could help her sister in care. Lillian also really wanted to care for Charle’s 6 year old son Albie from his first marriage . Lillian and Charles marriage is not all that it seems and Lillian is trapped and feels like a caged prize possession. There are all these people to care for and very little happiness for Lillian until a painter in residence appears one summer. Jack Fincher, an up and coming artist, is commissioned by Charles to ‘paint’ the old nursery, something Lillian is mot happy about . He is given free reign on the style he is to paint and he eventually becomes more than just a friend to Lillian.

    The flashbacks of Lillian’s past coincide with Maggie’s; showing the parallels in their lives and how their family histories have shaped who they have become. I loved how the past and present entwine. The dark secrets of Cloudesley slowly come to light and it is not what you imagine.
    There were times when I felt like a wanted to reach into the pages of the book and strangle a few characters.

    The Peacock Summer is a heartbreaking love story. I highly recommend it. If you love Kate Morton you will love this book. 4/5

  3. I absolutely loved this storyline from start to finish.

    Firstly though, the cover of this book is so gorgeous and works well with the contents too.

    The book entwines through periods between the characters of Lillian Oberon as a young bride and in her older years. In between these periods, we also follow the storyline of Maggie Oberon. In saying that though, I didn’t find myself getting confused with the storyline or the characters, everything flowed really well while reading.

    This is a story of family saga, secrets, abusive behaviour, tragedy and romance. Maggie was forced to leave England and her grandmother Lillian due to unforseen circumstances. It was better to hide away in Australia. When a letter arrives to say her grandmother is ill, her first thoughts are is that she has to go back for Lillian as she is more of a mother to her than her own mother ever was.

    Lillian lives in a beautiful grand manor house called Cloudesley where she was trapped in a loveless marriage. Lillian tried for a child but a tragedy saw that she would never have her own child. Albie was her husband’s child and Lillian loved him as her own and always was there to protect him from Charles her husband. Lillian would always put Albie first when it came to any decisions.

    The storyline is very engaging when Jack the artist comes to Cloudesley for Charles to paint a room.
    It’s not hard to love the characters of Lillian, Maggie and Jack and also Will, who is someone that grew up with Maggie.

    There are parts in the storyline where I felt pain for Lillian and of course anger and tears will happen.

    The story is beautifully written and an equally engaging storyline to keep you wanting to turn those pages over. Like so many books I have read in the past, again the characters become so lifelike to me. It’s as though I can see myself and visualise the surroundings as I read along.

    It wasn’t until I finished the book that I realised that I have read one of Hannah’s books a few years ago called Secrets of the Tides which was a memorable story too.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Hachette Australia for sending me this book to read and thank you again to Hachette Australia for the lovely bookmark for another book that looks interesting.

    I can honestly say from my heart that The Peacock Summer was definitely a beautiful storyline.

  4. The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell is a book that will bring out
    so many of your inner emotions. I just loved this book!!

    A book filled with great characters, family mystery and a beautiful house
    full of secrets.

    Lillian Oberon is such a beautiful young woman who had been dealt a
    complicated life living with a damaged and cruel husband.

    Then her husband Charles makes an arrangement with an artist visiting their home Cloudesly house and her whole world changes.

    Although she endures much suffering she has the capacity for love and unselfishness, thinking of others before herself.

    Maggie Oberon, Lillian’s granddaughter, has made many mistakes in her life but finally proves herself to be the strong woman Lillian has wanted her to be.

    Cloudesly house also is very central to this story and is most descriptive
    from the faded tapestry hanging across the wall to the curved staircase and the beautiful gardens.

    This is a novel where the past and the present are brought together in such a
    wonderful way with a captive story of two woman related not by blood but
    by love in their lives sixty years apart.

    I would like to congratulate Hannah Richell on a truly amazing book and
    so elegantly written.

    Many Thanks to Hachette Australia and BeautyandLace for the opportunity
    to read and review this book.

  5. The Peacock Summer would have to have the most beautiful cover inside and out of any book on my shelves. That inside cover would be amazing as a wall paper print and have wonderful would it be to have as a feature wall in the bedroom.

    Ok now on to the story.

    Maggie Oberon is and living and working in Australia which is as far away from the troubles she left behind in England as she could get. Hoping to simply forget the hurt and the reason she left and live a new life of fun and sun.
    Then she gets a call that brings her back to England and back to her grandmother Lillian and
    importantly back to Cloudesley and all the secrets it holds. Her home, the place she lived with her grandparents.

    Lillian is in a hospital in Buckinhamshire and when Maggie gets there all she wants is for Maggie to take her home.

    Through flashbacks that Lillian is having we get taken back to her time when Lillian is 26 and lives in Cloudesley with her husband Charles and her stepson Albie. It’s a magnificent home full of beautiful objects and at times Lillian feels like just another of Charles beautiful objects.
    A time when rich men got whatever they wanted.

    The times of Lillian as a wife and mother in her 20’s is told with such detail and tenderness that you feel so deeply for all that she is going through.
    Lillian’s mind is weaving from one part of time to another and as she reminisces about her life we get to see a whole other side of her life and marriage and mostly about her husband.
    When an artist is brought into the home it adds a whole new character and theme to the story that is warm and loving.

    Maggie still has her own demons to battle and we find out what really happened to make her leave for the other side of the world.

    It’s a story about family, never letting go, never giving up and love.

    I loved this book. The attention to every small detail is captivating and lets you ‘see’ the house the items, the paintings as if you were there.
    It’s a beautiful romantic story that will hold you right to the very end where there is a twist you’ll never see coming.

    After reading the book I went back to chapter one and reread it. I don’t know why but I’m glad I did as it made me understand it a lot more.

    Hannah Richell’s book is so rich and full like a beautiful old tapestry that you keep looking at to see the many hidden pieces.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace and Hachette Australia for giving me this book to read.

  6. Graceful. This is the perfect word to describe Hannah Richell’s latest and third release, The Peacock Summer. The writing is celestial, the characters defining and the narrative irresistible. It is all set to a stirring stage, a crumbling old manor house on an English estate. The Peacock Summer is a tale that does not give up its secrets so easily, but when they are revealed readers will bask in the glory of the love, passion, heartbreak and tragedy that befalls the players of The Peacock Summer. Personally, this is my favourite type of novel and this one is a beauty.

    The Peacock Summer hails the return of Hannah Richell. Richell’s much anticipated third novel is polished, dainty and refined. The embossed gold title, along with the front, back and inside cover art is so visually pleasing. These cover aesthetics set the scene for the magnificent tale to come, where art and peacocks do feature within this involving tale, along with a whole host of other events.

    Richell is a master of the two-fold style of narrative. I felt nothing but comfort in the arms of Richell’s writing and her narrative approach. Richell achieves the perfect equilibrium in terms of the presentation of her past (mid 1950’s) and present day narratives. Both were a joy to read, the pages seemed to float away. I appreciated that this was a modern day style fiction tale, with one of the storylines based in the 1950’s, an era from our not too distant past.

    Characterisation is clearly one of Richell’s many talents. I loved her approach to all the characters in this novel. There are some endearing protagonists in The Peacock Summer, along with some disheartening players. Richell is bold in her approach to her character set and their related arcs. We witness their moments of elation and despair. In all instances the emotions are felt at a high level. Lillian, the central character of the novel, is touched with so much clarity, that I felt as if I had stepped into her shoes and faced the problems she was dealing with, thanks to Richell’s prose. This also extends to her granddaughter Maggie, my heart ached for both these women, in different ways.

    Richell is a very skilled writer, a rarity, who is able to successfully draw out the finite details, as well as the contrast between the sombre and light moments within her writing. This takes great talent, but Richell seems to take this in her stride, effortlessly issuing her reader with a deep psychological sketch of her characters and the binds they are placed in. I was able to draw out many resonating themes from this novel, from the value of family, secrets, artistry, passion, betrayal, emotional abuse and reconciling the past with the present. I feel readers will want to remain loyal to this novel from the first to the parting line. The audience is rewarded with a final curtain call that offers a sense of settlement or understanding to all the strands of the novel.

    I cannot close this review without mentioning the looming presence of Cloudesley, the estate and home of the lead character Lillian. It has such presence in the novel that it is the most influential factor in the creating overall unique aura of The Peacock Summer.

    An aging estate, a family mystery, flawed protagonists, heartbreak and passion are all ignited in this victorious new tale from Hannah Richell. I highly recommend The Peacock Summer to all passionate readers.

    * I wish to extend my thanks to Beauty & Lace and the publisher, Hachette Australia for the opportunity to review The Peacock Summer.

  7. The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell is a stunning book, from the beautiful cover
    to the heartwrenching story inside.
    Richell has woven the story of two beautiful women decades apart.
    They are both damaged in their own way, but being damaged on the inside,
    doesn’t always show it on the outside.
    Cloudesley is the main setting, a manor house in the 1950’s, a superb and stunning piece of architecture.
    When her Grandmother Lillian becomes ill, Maggie returns to look after her.
    Maggie grew up at Cloudesley with Lillian the only stable influence in her life.
    As the story unfolds, the effortlessly flowing between Lillain’s life and Maggie’s is very easy to follow.
    Lillian is the beautiful bird caged in the confines of the manor house by her wedding vows while Maggie is the rebel
    who has run away and now must face up to the life she left behind.
    Lillian’s husband Charles, her stepson (Maggie’s father) and a visiting Artist,play an important part of making both Lillian and Maggie who they are.
    The secrets from the past collide with the secrets of modern day and are set on a collision course
    that will have you reeling as they unfold.
    A beautiful written book that is highly enjoyable.
    Thank you so much for the oppertunity to read this book.

  8. What a beautiful book from the cover to the story itself. I absolutely loved it!
    I was so intrigued with both the story lines throughout the book about Lillian and Maggie who are grandmother and granddaughter and felt so involved that I was crying towards the end. Both characters were so likeable and I was almost disappointed that Maggie and Lillian just never seemed to get the chance to talk properly but upon reflection that happens in real life so I then thought it was actually refreshing and that the story felt more realistic that way. It then also got me thinking that I should be putting more effort into really listening to my family and friends as well so I appreciated that. This book really draws out a lot of emotions, it is just so beautifully written. I also enjoyed the little extra storyline written by the anonymous person that was woven throughout creating a little mystery. It had me wondering who it could be but once I worked it out I loved it! There were so many ups and downs in this story and some really heartbreaking moments that it tore at my heartstrings. Thank you so much Beauty and Lace and Hachette Australia for the opportunity to read this wonderful book and a huge thank you to Hannah Richell for writing it! I can’t wait to discover more of her books now.

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed The Peacock Summer although the story was not exactly as I had imagined it to be!

    More than just another historical novel, Hannah Richell explores the full gamut of human nature and is not afraid to delve into the darker aspects of a character’s personality.

    Although some characters drove me insane, the storyline kept me intrigued and impatient to find out the truth!

    I thank Beauty and Lace and Hachette for letting me read and review this book. It was a fantastic read!

  10. Hi, I have just finished listening to this book and loved it. I am however wondering why we didn’t even hear or experience Jack’s reaction to reading Lillian’s love letter, that Maggie had found in a drawer and handed to him at the west wing mural party. Maybe I checked out or fell asleep during that part of the book? It is something I was really looking forward to reading and feels a bit unresolved for me. I wanted to hear his reaction and experience when he realises that Lillian did decide to run away with him after all.
    I would love everyone’s comments and thoughts on this.
    Yes I realise I’m quite behind since this book was published in 2018!!

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