The backdrop of The Glittering Hour is an entertaining one; a post-war Britain using glamour and materialism to mask it’s festering wounds left by a lost generation killed in a terrible war.
It’s a time of great luxury, but also of great grief and poverty; of sickness and depression. It is the perfect setting for a story and I was intrigued to read what sort of tale could be woven in such delicate times.
However, as interesting as the setting is, the story itself is…..okay.
It is your standard paint-by-numbers Romeo and Juliet story told in the 1920s.
They love each other, but she’s rich and he’s poor.
I want to put a disclaimer here and let the record stand that I hate it when people complain a story is “copying” another simply because they share similar themes or plot.
However, there were some parts of this story that were a bit too…. “familiar” for comfort.
While this story takes place 13 years after Titanic, there were several times I felt the author was veering dangerously close to alternate-universe fanfic territory.
Lawrence is technically a photographer and not a sketch artist like Jack but….come on. That’s cutting it a bit close, especially when you take into consideration the whole “forbidden love between the social classes” thing.
Even bearing this in mind, I think part of my inability to be wooed by the whole romance was due in part to my general indifference to Lawrence as a character. We learn about his past and some of his interests, but his personality never truly shines through. Yes, Jack of Titanic is a bit annoying with his YOLO doctrine, but at least you can tell early on who he is. Lawrence, on the other hand, could be replaced by literally any working-class poor boy with a camera and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Just to give you an idea of how bland this guy is, I literally forgot his name every time I put the book down.
Selina is…. better, but with her you get all the typical trappings of a rich-falls-for-poor story protagonist: She’s a spoiled rich child that hates her privilege, but also relies on it for stability. She’s brazen in her acts of defiance to her parents, but isn’t able to make a leap when it truly counts.
There is also the issue of the multiple perspectives. While I adapted to the bipolar-isque shifts in point-of-view after a while, I found quite a number of them to be completely superfluous to the plot. I still don’t understand why we need to get Miss Lovelock’s view on fascism, or Madam Lennox’s opinion of Alice, or why we need to hear from the gardener. Keeping the perspectives limited to Lawrence, Selina, and Alice would have served the story just as well (if not better).
Undoubtedly, the best parts of the book for me are the ones that focus on Alice. It is easy to sympathize with her and her loneliness and I was curious as to what she would find at the end of her treasure hunt. Reading about her adventures while exploring the Blackwood grounds and all the secrets they held is part of the reason why I kept reading in spite of how uninspiring I found the romance.
In fact, if Grey had focused solely on Alice and dumped the parts transpiring in the past, it would have added real intrigue to the story. I didn’t much care for the Lawrence and Selina aspect (as if you couldn’t tell by this point), but I found Alice’s relationship with her mother heart-warming and it would have been interesting to see that explored more. How might Alice’s perspective on who her mother is change with each clue she finds about her mother’s past? That could have been an intriguing concept to explore.
I will say this for Grey: She is excellent at creating atmosphere and her lyrical writing-style swept me up in the glamour of it all. Her word-pictures are clear and beautiful so even when the story itself didn’t necessarily hold that much interest, the images she evokes persuaded me to press on.
I’m not sorry I read this book and I’m think it got better towards its climax. Nevertheless, I think it’s more obvious clichés let it down in the end. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a few years time, I forget I ever read this book.
If I had to describe this story in a single word, I would say “harmless.”
It’s not a bad book, but it’s like a decent BLT. It fills you up, but it’s nothing to write home about and you’re unlikely to be tempted by it if there’s something better on offer. At least it doesn’t insult the audience or incite anger.
In my opinion, it’s just a pleasant diversion.
3 thoughts on “Thoughts on “The Glittering Hour” by Iona Grey (Spoiler-Free)”
Shame the story itself is just okay, cos I do like the sound of the setting. It’s a pity it came too close to being fanficy as well (and yeah this does sound like it has similarities to Titanic). Great review!
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Thank you! Yeah, I was disappointed by it. I can tell the writer is really talented, it just didn’t reach it’s full potential.
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You’re welcome! That’s such a shame!