Palace Circle by Rebecca Dean
In the early part of the 20th century, there was a lovely young girl in Virginia who was courted by British nobility. Convinced she loved Ivor, Delia agreed to marry him and traveled with him to England, only to find that he married her only because he found her pleasant enough and wanted an heir – something that was not provided to him by his first wife – and that he was deeply in love with the wife of a friend.
“Palace Circle” is primarily set in the lead up to World War II through the first part of the war, first in London, then in Cairo. The story is told with a series of third person limited omniscient narrators. Luckily the point of view does not jump around from chapter to chapter, or even within chapters, but goes through five chronological sections, beginning with Delia, followed by each of her two daughters as well as two young men. The plot revolves around Delia’s family, high society life, and life in British-occupied Egypt. There wasn’t necessarily a grand sweeping narrative, it was more the somewhat romantic (but thankfully no blantent sex scenes) story of a family navigating these different settings.
You cannot hear slightest mention of this book without hearing the statement by Nora Robers that “If you like Philippa Gregory, you will love this book!” Honestly, I requested this from LibraryThing Early Reviewers in spite of this statement, because I’m iffy on Gregory and have no interest in Roberts whatsoever, so wasn’t crazy about the fact that she’s so prominently displayed on the cover. A slightly more accurate statement would probably have been that if you like Gregory you will like this book. I could definitely see the comparison, although thankfully Dean didn’t feel Gregory’s need to include the actual sex scenes. “Palace Circle” was like some of Gregory’s ‘okay, not great’ writing. It wasn’t super engaging like “The Other Boleyn Girl” or maddening and boring like “The Other Queen.” Instead it was fairly interesting and kept me reading like “The Boleyn Inheritence.”
In my opinion, this is fairly representative of the ‘fluffy’ part of the historical fiction genre. I was entertained, but not super engaged. I didn’t feel that I learned much, which was a bit disappointing, but I never wished I could just finish already and read something else either. It was probably lucky that I read some fairly negative reviews for this book before I started it, because I initially had high expectations and those reviews tempered them greatly. If I had expected great things from this book I’d be sorely disappointed, but I expected (at most) a decent read, so I was pleased. I wouldn’t go searching out any of Dean’s other work, but I would read it if it was around.
If you feel like a fluffy read, go ahead and give this a try, but don’t expect much depth.