The Glittering Hour
By: Iona Grey
Published: December 10th, 2019
From the Cover:
Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying on just the right side of scandal, all while running from the life her parents would choose for her.
Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who stumbles into Selina’s orbit one night and can never let her go even while knowing someone of her stature could never end up with someone of his. Except Selina falls hard for Lawrence, envisioning a life of true happiness. But when tragedy strikes, Selina finds herself choosing what’s safe over what’s right.
Spanning two decades and a seismic shift in British history as World War II approaches, Iona Grey’s The Glittering Hour is an epic novel of passion, heartache and loss.
One of my favorite things about the historical fiction genre is that reading from it always makes me feel like I’ve been transported to a different time. A great book in this genre has the ability to make you feel like you’re truly there, immersed in the sounds, sights, smells, and tastes of the time period. The Glittering Hour was one of these books for me. Grey was not only able to expertly capture the thoughts and feelings of the time period between World War I and World War II, but also make it feel like you were reading the story of your best friend and not a distant ancestor.
Grey goes back and forth between two points of view, that of Selina Lennox and that of her daughter Alice. Between these accounts she weaves together stories of loss, love, sacrifice, and difficult decisions. The major conflict of the book is whether Selina will chase after her heart or her mind. In a time period where women felt like they could only feel safe and secure when tied to a man of reasonable wealth and status, Selina’s decision became only more pressing. On one hand, we are taken along with Selina as she experiences life as a young woman, and on the other hand we learn about the decisions Selina makes through letters she sends to her daughter Alice nearly a decade later while away with her husband. Of course, things are never as they seem and the twist at the end of this book is devastating. The strings of Selina’s past in 1926 and Alice’s present in 1936 come together in a surprising and emotional climax. Let’s just say quite a few tears were shed.
Grey did an exceptional job executing this story. From the descriptions of the time period to the character development, this is a profound work that deserves ample praise. My only complaint (and the reason I can’t give it five stars) is that the first third of the book seemed to drag a little. At that point in the book I didn’t quite feel connected to the characters and actually set the book aside for a couple of weeks. I returned to it cautiously but optimistically, and I’m so glad I did. If you stick with the slow build in the beginning you will be rewarded in the final two-thirds of the story. If you can be an impatient reader sometimes like me, it’s good to know this ahead of time; don’t put the book aside!
Grey has another book, Letters to the Lost, that was published back in 2015. I haven’t read it yet, but reading The Glittering Hour has prompted me to pencil it in on my “to be read” list.