Saturday, June 21, 2008
REVIEW: The Dream Kingdom
Title: The Dream Kingdom
Author: Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Setting: England 1908-1910
First Line: In a taxi-cab rattling through London in the small hours, Jessie Compton sat up, wide awake, astonished that her two companions could be half asleep (in the case of her friend Lady Violet Winchmore) or frankly dozing (as was their chaperone Miss Miller, Violet's former governess).
Beginning this series is an investment in time and pleasure. Currently numbered at thirty volumes, it is Harrod-Eagles' ambitious task to take a fictional family in Yorkshire from the time of Richard III all the way to the present day. If you like architecture, several volumes have floor plans of the house as it changes over the years. If you like genealogy, there's an ancestral chart included in each. Although there are a lot of characters, these books attest to the author's skill as a writer because each is different, each is fully drawn, and each is memorable.
I began reading this series in the 1980s when the first five volumes were published in this country. When I could no longer find them, I assumed that there were no more. It wasn't until 2000 that I discovered that she'd been writing all along, and it's been my pleasure to get caught up. I hoard them though, and parcel them out sparingly so I don't run out before the next book is in print!
The Dream Kingdom takes place during the years 1908-1910 when England was in a period of golden summer. All things were bright and beautiful, and it seemed that everything would go on like this forever. Two girls in the family have their London Season. One of the young men realizes a dream to get into the brand-new field of aviation. One of the women is an ardent Suffragette. The current owner of Morland Place finds his business doing quite well with a new contract from the White Star Line for the soft furnishings for the Olympic and Titanic. He also brings home a new wife which throws his sister into a tailspin because she knows there can't be two mistresses of the same house.
This series has it all for me: history, wonderful characters, a vivid setting...I can't get enough!