September 1, 2011
Received ARC from NetGalley
Synopsis (from publisher): Following the death of their grandmother, Erica Calcott and her sister Beth return to Storton Manor, a grand and imposing house in Wiltshire, England, where they spent their summer holidays as children. When Erica begins to sort through her grandmother’s belongings, she is flooded with memories of her childhood—and of her cousin, Henry, whose disappearance from the manor tore the family apart.
Erica sets out to discover what happened to Henry—so that the past can be laid to rest, and her sister, Beth, might finally find some peace. Gradually, as Erica begins to sift through remnants of the past, a secret family history emerges: one that stretches all the way back to Oklahoma in the 1900s, to a beautiful society heiress and a haunting, savage land. As past and present converge, Erica and Beth must come to terms with two terrible acts of betrayal—and the heartbreaking legacy left behind.
Review: I requested this book from NetGalley because I have a serious weakness for Kate Morton, and after reading comparisons between Katherine Webb and Ms. Morton, I was excited to see something else along the same lines. The general structure was the same - a large, slightly ruined ancestral home, the modern scions of the family attempting to come to terms with their family’s past, flashbacks to an earlier time, but where Ms. Morton’s novels leave me wishing - hoping - for more about these characters, I finished Ms. Webb’s Legacy curiously unmoved. I think the major reason for this was that while I enjoy dual narratives in books, I find them most interesting when each narrative touches on similar themes and reveals truths hidden in its counterpart.
In The Legacy, the modern narrative follows Erica’s desire to help her big sister, Beth, with her continuing depression while deciding what to do about their inherited estate, Storton Manor and solving the mystery of their childhood connected with it. Both this narrative and the characters - especially Erica - are compelling, and the childhood mysteries are sufficiently twisty to make a good read. I completely enjoyed Erica’s intuition, her determination to help her older sister and nephew, and her dogged insistence to find answers
The downfall is mostly in the historical narrative as it follows the girls’ great-grandmother Caroline during her first marriage on an Oklahoma ranch in the very early 20th century. It’s so very different from the modern that they never seem truly related, and little of what we discover while reading about Caroline is truly necessary to understanding the modern characters. While the historical narrative is truly tragic, I found myself less able to relate and empathize to Caroline and her compatriots.
While Ms. Webb’s book left me mostly cool, I’d recommend it to a friend looking for a beach read or some light vacation reading. I’ll also keep a lookout for the author’s new book and future volumes. I’d love to see if the problems I had with The Legacy are merely first book issues which will be resolved as she grows as a writer.
Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the ARC.