Sunday, November 13, 2011
Review: The Arrow Chest by Robert Parry
Synopsis: London, 1876. The painter Amos Roselli is in love with his life-long friend and model, the beautiful Daphne - and she with him - until one day she is discovered by another man, a powerful and wealthy industrialist. What will happen when Daphne realises she has sacrificed her happiness to a loveless marriage? What will happen when the artist realises he has lost his most cherished source of inspiration? And how will they negotiate the ever-increasing frequency of strange and bizarre events that seem to be driving them inexorably towards self-destruction. Here, amid the extravagant Neo-Gothic culture of Victorian England, the iconic poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ blends with mysterious and ghostly glimpses of Tudor history. Romantic, atmospheric and deeply dark.
My thoughts: The story begins when, during restoration at the Tower of London, an arrow chest containing bones believed to be those of Anne Boleyn is discovered. Amos is asked to sketch the remains and alone in the dark and spooky surroundings has an experience that perfectly sets the dark gothic atmosphere for the story.
The lives of Henry VIII, the ill-fated Anne and her childhood friend and supposed lover, Thomas Wyatt, are reflected in the lives of Amos, Daphne and her husband, Oliver Ramsay, and picking up the references to the Tudor era is great fun. Daphne chose to marry Oliver partly to fulfil the expectations of her parents and partly because she feared marriage to a penniless artist although she still cared for Amos. She persuades her husband to commission Amos to paint his portrait and later invites him to join them on the Isle of Wight for the summer . He's accompanied by his housekeeper, Beth, whose sweet and practical nature brings a the breath of normalcy to lighten the darkness.
The Isle of Wight was a popular holiday resort for fashionable Victorians. Queen Victoria built her beloved Osborne House there and Lord Tennyson also had his summer home there. It attracted many writers and artists - ' the arty-farty crowd' as Oliver Ramsay disparagingly calls them, to relax away from the everyday restrictions of the era.
Robert Parry's descriptive prose is gorgeous and really brought the beauty of the place alive - I could almost feel the summer breeze and hear the sea crashing on rocks below the cliffs.
A lovely, multi-layered novel of romance , suspense, ghostly hauntings and dreams, spiced with wonderful touches of humour and a fascinating glimpse of life in the Victorian era.
Loved it! I recommend!
Royal Reviews Regency & Victorian Challenge