#QuercusSummer #BookReview: Florence Grace by Tracey Rees

Florence Grace

Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It’s a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone.

But when Florrie is fourteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie’s life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth.

Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.

Paper Copy from Quercus Books, in exchange for a review, as part of their #QuercusSummer campaign.

It’s the middle of the 19th Century and Florrie has an enjoyable, if poor, beginning in Cornwall, where she lives with her father and grandmother – at least until her father dies when she is 8. Then she has to drop what schooling she has been getting and start helping her grandmother, skills that put her in good stead for later in life. However, she does get to spend time with Old Rilla, the local wise woman, who brings out her natural affinity with the local environment.

However, she’s not long into her teens when her grand mother dies, and she is sent to live with her mother’s family – the wayward Graces in London, whose Grandfather – Hawker – is trying to pull the family’s finances up by the bootstraps. Florrie, now called Florence, gets on well with two of her cousins (Turlington in particular), but reacts badly with the rest of the family, as they try and make her acceptable to London Society. The majority of the book is Florence trying to strike the middle ground, and deal with her growing feelings for the troubled Turlington, but after a few years realises that she has lost herself, and that should she tie herself to Turlington she will never be happy. Finally she remembers that everything is a circle, and returns home to Cornwall, not quite the same but not totally different.

It is good to see Florrie mature over the 5 or so years that she is away, and learn to use her knowledge and skills – the period after Hawker dying means that the power and situation has been flipped on it’s head, and the hard work that she grew up doing suddenly became vital rather than something to be ashamed of. Her friendship with Rebecca allows her the escape of outside friendship to give her an escape valve and give another outlook on situations. In particular it allows her to come to terms with her Aunt and female cousins (who, after the early part of the book, disappear into the background, rarely to be heard of again).

It was an easy and enjoyable read, with a decent comparison between the open spaces of Cornwall and the tight, dirty space of London where you can barely see the sky. Whilst things move forward, life can also move in a Circle, both on a personal level and a family scale.

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