This is one of the few books that I’ve read for our Avondale Book Club that I can say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, without reservation.
It is written in three time frames, through the eyes of three women (Eliza, Nell, and Cassandra), with occasional glimpses from other people. I quickly adapted to the frequently shifting time frames, being sure to note at each one where and when the story was taking place. Other people said that they found it distracting, so YMMV.
The book is a mystery of sorts, though not a murder mystery, which is usually what one thinks of when hearing the term. Rather, it is a mystery of who Nell’s folks were, who left her on the ship going from England to Australia, and why they never came back for her.
Each question is answered by the end, following a story of false leads, red herrings, and other plot points you expect in a mystery, to a very satisfying conclusion.
I had some problem with Nell, reacting on being told at age 21 that she was adopted, basically trying to drop out of life, and distancing herself away from her family, not for a few weeks or months, but apparently for years. I was able to justify it to myself by assuming she inherited the family trait of brooding and making everything worse by it (seen in the 1915 timeline done by Creepy Uncle Linus, Aunt Adelaide, Rose, and even Eliza). Other people complained about Nell then breaking off with her wonderful fiance, and going off and marrying a jerk, but I must have missed that part. What little I remember seeing of her husband (and very little it was, too), was that he moved the family from Australia to America, that he really loved his daughter, and that he died young, so Nell and her daughter moved back to Australia. Not enough for me to make a real judgement in the matter.
Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. If you enjoy mysteries, don’t let the size of the book scare you off, it reads quickly.