Hannah Richell’s The Peacock Summer reminds me so much of a Kate Morton novel, which is not a bad thing in the slightest. The story takes place in the past and the present. The two protagonists have a connection through time. The setting is a declining estate in the remote English countryside, complete with a rural village. Ms. Richell even tries for a gothic undertone through mysterious entries that precede each new section of the story.
For all its similarities, however, The Peacock Summer is quite different. For one thing, the past in this story is the mid-to-late 1950s, not the Victorian, pre-war, or war eras. For another, the main character is thoroughly modern. She has one-night stands and voices opinions on specific topics that make it a book for recent times.
Then there is the general feel of the novel. Ms. Richell may try to establish a gothic undertone, but she never quite succeeds in doing so. Instead, the story feels a bit like an idyll. One instinctively knows that there will be a happy ending of some sort for Maggie, and the problems both characters must bear are not life-threatening ones. While there are darker aspects of the novel, including Lillian’s marriage, we see Lillian in her dotage and understand how things work out for her before we ever reach the end of her tale. One experiences a general voyeuristic curiosity to learn Lillian’s story, but in general, neither woman’s story has the danger or mystery that novels occurring in two periods typically have.
The Peacock Summer is a charming novel that reiterates the importance of living life to its fullest, grabbing love when you find it, etc. It is also the type of book I won’t remember in a month. There is nothing within its pages that makes it memorable. It is merely a breezy way to while away a few hours of the summer.