Sunday, October 1, 2023

Susanna Kearsley’s THE SPLENDOR FALLS – A Hunt for a Medieval Treasure in a Town in France

October is Medieval month so look for stories that harken back to the distant past. Up first is one set in Chinon in the picturesque Loire Valley in Anjou. It’s the story of Emily Braden who goes on holiday, ostensibly with her brilliant but unreliable cousin, Harry. Harry wants to explore the old town and the castle, where Queen Isabelle, child bride of King John, had withstood the siege of Chinon many centuries ago, and where, according to legend, she hid a treasure of great worth.


When Emily arrives in Chinon she finds that Harry never arrived (in fact, not to appear for much of the book). So, Emily decides to spend time with the other guests at her hotel. There, she learns of star-crossed lovers in the German occupation during the Second World War that also hid a great treasure of jewels. The young woman, another Isabelle, who was a chambermaid at the hotel, fell in love with a German soldier, but it did not end well.


Two treasures, two Isabelles, and lots of intrigue.

Generally I love Kearsley’s unusual stories but this one seemed lacking somehow. Not that the writing wasn’t wonderful, even lyrical at times, but I kept waiting for more of the medieval tale, of which there were only glimpses. To be sure, mystery and evil lurked in abundance, and there is tragedy, but it’s more a contemporary story than a medieval one.


The love story between Emily and Neill (a violinist staying at the hotel) is well done and I did enjoy that. And Kearsley’s writing is brilliant as always. But I kept waiting for Harry to show up and I kept waiting for more from the past. A good story but not quite what I expected.



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