by Lucy Cole
When doing exams it is always important to take breaks, as I’m sure your parents have reminded you countless times as you sit there, miserable and bored, feeling as if your brain cannot take in one more history date. Now the decision of what to do with this precious break is always difficult. I myself, after much deliberation, decided to turn to a book. A very unwise decision as it turned out.
I stumbled across a series by Penny Vincenzi called The Spoils of Time Trilogy, which I remembered reading a few years before. However, what I had not remembered was its compelling storyline and the vice-like grip of its power; soon my fifteen minute breaks turned to hour-long ones and I would find myself using revision as a distraction from my book rather than the reverse.
The trilogy follows the intriguing, passionate and painful story of Celia Lytton and her large family, as they struggle to survive the two world wars and keep their treasured company, Lytton’s Publishing House, above water. The narrative is woven between deeply moving love stories and intricate detail on the workings of a publishing house; Penny Vincenzi skilfully interlaces momentous historical events, including the great battles such as the Somme and the D-Day landing, with the seeming minutiae of everyday relationships within both the family and society. Perhaps most interesting to me was her discussion of the increasing power of women during this time. Not only does this series address the rise of feminism in the early 20th century, mentioning figures such as Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst and their fight for equality in both the home and the workplace, but it also explores the effect of the war on women’s status within society.
Whilst at times it seems Vincenzi’s attempt to include every historical occurrence of the time detracts from the fluency of the novels, the style in which she intertwines the family’s lives with these events successfully prevents these references from becoming overbearing and irrelevant. The separate storylines prevent the book from becoming monotonous, constantly sparking your interest with cliff-hangers and half-revealed secrets, leaving you hungry to read on. The brilliant interweaving of dramatic events such as death, childbirth and war with the everyday frivolities of fashion and dinner parties caters to the interests of every reader, also preventing the storyline becoming predictable and repetitive.
I would recommend this fantastic and glamorous series to anyone who is willing to put up with its rather extended length. I promise you won’t regret it.