Title: The Orchid House
Author: Lucinda Riley
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Julia Forrester has experienced a tragedy that has left her unable to play music, though she is a concert pianist. She finds solace in nothing. When she finds out Wharton Park, the grand house where she spent her childhood, is being sold, Julia seeks it out along with her sister and once again meets the heir to the estate, Kit Crawford. Kit and Julia find a diary in Julia’s grandparents’ old home, one which must have belong to Julia’s now-deceased grandfather. Julia asks her grandmother about the diary and, in return, is told a story that spans generations and is about love and loss.
The Orchid House is two dramatic stories melded into one overarching saga that spans generations. At the beginning, the focus is on Julia. It’s clear she’s in mourning, and though the reader receives bits and pieces of her story through secondary characters, it takes time for the full scope of her loss to come through. Readers will feel sorry for her, though some may find her frustrating. She’s a bit of a doormat, and it’s not due to the tragedy. She doesn’t really assert herself, preferring to go along with dominant personalities, which can be a difficult quality.
The second storyline is that of Julia’s grandmother, Elsie, and Olivia, the last lady of Wharton Park. The tale of Olivia’s girlhood is a fun one, though readers will know that things can’t remain this happy forever. That cloud hangs over the entire novel, especially as Harry, the heir to Wharton Park, makes one selfish decision after another, taking away any chance anyone involved with him may have found at happiness. Readers will be appalled by Harry while simultaneously being riveted by his story. Though the tale has an overwrought quality at times, that doesn’t make it any less interesting to read.
Lucinda Riley’s writing style in The Orchid House is really breathtaking. She has a melodic, soft quality to her writing, which makes the reader really fall into the story. Her descriptions are lush and gorgeous. Readers will be able to feel the heat of Thailand, picture the old grandeur of Wharton Park, and to hear the young Olivia’s vivacious laugh. It’s really wonderfully done, with one caveat: the dialogue is also written in this style, which is jarring. While it’s beautiful to read, it’s unfortunately completely unrealistic.
The Orchid House presents some wonderful twists and turns for readers, making this a gripping read from beginning to end. While it has some minor flaws, overall, it’s an enjoyable, beautifully written novel that takes readers from one corner of the world to another in search of answers. It’s also the story of Julia’s attempt to find herself and what she stands for, especially in the face of the tragedies she’s experienced. If you’re in the mood for a dramatic, yet satisfying book, The Orchid House is a great choice to keep you entertained.