The last daughter by Nicola Cornick

Eleven years ago, Serena’s half sister Caitlin disappeared between the old ruins of Minster Lovell Hall. Unfortunately, Serena can’t remember anything from that night. Then suddenly Caitlin’s body is found during archeological research in strange circumstances. Serena travels back to Oxfordshire determined to uncover the truth. In the fifteenth century, Anne Fitzhugh is betrothed to Francis Lovell, a close friend to Richard of Gloucester. She discovers the existence of an ancient old relic, the Lovell lodestar, which is said to have magical powers.

I was happy to get the chance to read ‘The last daughter‘ as it was my introduction to Nicola Cornick’s work. She is known for her dual timeline novels with an interesting historical perspective and a bit of magical or science fiction elements woven into the story.

The novels opens in our century when Serena receives a call from the police while on a visit to her aunt Polly in America. The remains of her missing twin sister have been found, close to the place where Caitlin disappeared all those years ago. Minster Lovell Hall is a medieval manor, where her grandparents lived and Serena and her sister spent their holidays. Her grandfather Dick is suffering from dementia and has moved to an elderly home. Their house has been sold and is now a tourist museum. Serena travels to Lovell Hall to see if she can remember anything from that dreadful night.

The historical timeline is told from Anne Fitzhugh whose mother was a Neville, brother to Richard Neville, earl of Warwick and kingmaker. Her parents become involved in the rebellion against Edward IV and Anne is married to Francis Lovell, one of Warwicks wardens. Francis is a close friend to Richard of York, the king’s younger brother. As you can tell, we’re in the middle of the Wars of the Roses so Anne and Francis will be in much trouble.

The whole mystery surrounds around Minster Lovell Hall, Francis’ family home. It is said it contains a so called ‘lodestar’ that can make you fall through time. We learn about the story of the mistletoe bride who disappeared on her wedding night and of course Francis Lovell himself vanishes after the battle of Stoke field.

I did like both perspectives, but I think I enjoyed Anne’s most. It’s set in one of my favorite periods and I believe Francis Lovell is a great main character to depict the events as he was in the midst of it all as Richard’s closest friend and advisor. However, when the story progresses towards the disappearance of the princes in the Tower, I had my doubts about the plot. In one chapter, Anne and Francis are against the princes, proclaiming them as bastards. In the next, they try to protect them together with Elizabeth Woodville. This felt a bit artificial.

I also enjoyed the magical elements and legends surrounding the lodestar. This is a light read and the focus isn’t really on the history but rather on the mystery surrounding all the disappearances and especially Caitlin’s. I’m sure I’ll pick up one of Cornick’s earlier works now.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.

This is book 9 for #20booksofsummer.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Have you read anything by Nicola Cornick?

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant doesn’t like surprises. She is living alone on the same flat and working at the same office for years. Every Wednesday she calls her mum and every Friday night she buys a pizza and two bottles of wodka. When Eleanor and her new colleague Raymond help an old man after an accident on the street, she is forced to break her routine. At the same time she has met the men of her life. The only problem is that he doesn’t know it yet.

I don’t read many non historical books. Only a few per year. This one was a Christmas gift from my sister-in-a-law and coincidence or not, I already had this book on my TBR list as everyone seemed to love it. Yep, I’m the kind of person that reads a hyped book just to know what all the fuzz is about. I have decided to also review them on this blog.

Eleanor Oliphant is a quirky main character. A recipe that always makes for a good story. But sometimes it doesn’t work out for me (I found ‘Stoner’ for example utterly disappointing). But this is a good story. Once your start reading, you just know that Eleanor is not ok but that she tries to cope with her life in a different way than any of us would. We all recognize something of ourselves in Eleanor. She’s human with all her faults and flaws.

Not much happens. Eleanor meets a new colleague who truly shows an interest in her and together they bring an old man to the hospital. This sets some things in motion. Slowly you discover her past as Raymond and Sammy force Eleanor to open up her heart and leave her safe habits behind. Her character development is the sole focus of the book. A lot of bad things happened to Eleanor and you wish her all the best. Still the book had me at a certain plot twist and I was fulfilled at the end.

Honeyman writes a wonderful story, beautifully paced, although sometimes with some difficult literary words. As this was her debut novel it’s quite impressive that Eleanor conquered a place in the heart of so many readers. One of the better non historical books I’ve read in recent years.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Have you read this one? Are you a routine person or do you just go with the flow?