Her Father's House

Emma Sinclair-Webb, Author Thomas Dunne Books $26.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-312-15545-2
Forced to flee France at age 10 before Nazi troops advance on Paris, then cast adrift in a lifeboat when the ship taking her British diplomat father and French mother to England is sunk, Jennie Veryan endures further tragedy when her mother, who has returned to France to work with the Resistance, is executed. A bereft Jennie begins a new life in her ancestral home of Trevellan in Cornwall. The estate has all the trappings of a wealthy English household, but it's packed with scheming, grasping characters: the stern grandparents who forbid Jennie's love affair with poor and unsuitable Mark Curnow, the estate manager's son; chain-smoking villainous Aunt Laura; devious Cousin Clive, who stands to inherit Trevellan if Jennie's missing father (who disappeared when the Japanese invaded Singapore) is not found; and Victor, the sinister yet handsome stranger who claims to know her father's whereabouts. This familiar cast never assumes flesh in Sinclair's (The Seventh Wave) postwar romance. Jennie feels lost amidst the social demands of her new home and eventually leaves to look for her father in Singapore. Unfortunately, neither shifting points of view nor an endless parade of brand names (William Morris wallpaper, Royal Doulton china) place names and acronyms manage to substitute for a real sense of time and place. The characters act on unbelievably simple motives and the tale's historical events during and after WWII devolve into insubstantial melodrama. Jennie never propels her own story: even her search for her father comes about almost by default, and several times her passivity almost scuttles her star-crossed love for the supremely dull Mark. Still, Jennie's tale may inspire sympathy in anglophile lovers of mid-century costume drama. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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