I’ve always loved the idea of books. I love the aesthetic of dusty old libraries and bookshelves filled to the brim with thousands of stories. The trouble has always been the same for me: finding my will to continue a story until the very end.
As I’ve gotten older and my time split between home responsibilities, work obligations and personal relationships, I’ve had to really hone in on books that I feel are worth my valuable free time. And this year I just happened to find such a book.
British author Iona Grey captivated my heart until her final page of The Glittering Hour that left me with a sense of longing for summer and reminiscing of young love.
The Glittering Hour is the second novel by Grey and was released in 2019. I first heard about the novel while scrolling through social media and saw an advertisement, and the premise had me hooked within the first few words. I’m a sucker for a romance with an art deco backdrop.
The story follows Selina Lennox, a Bright Young Thing, in the London summer of 1925. A beautiful, carefree young woman, Selina finds herself attending the most lavish parties with her socialite friends. Fast cars and fast liquor abound until Selina’s world changes when she meets an intriguing artist, Lawrence Weston, a painter with his sights set on becoming a prominent photographer.
Stuck in her aristocratic society and torn between what is expected of her by her family and what her heart truly desires, Selina is forced to choose between what is safe and what is right.
The story is told through flashbacks as Selina recounts the summer that changed everything in a series of letters and treasure hunt clues written for her young daughter, Alice, who is sent to live with her stern grandmother while her parents embark on a business trip to Burma during the winter of 1936. Family secrets unfold inside the mysterious treasures left for Alice to find as she learns the story of how she came to be.
As a reader, I enjoy novels with a sense of historical fiction that whisk me away to a bygone era such as the glamorous and romanticized Roaring Twenties. Always chasing that high I first felt when I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for the first time, The Glittering Hour rose to my expectations, promising me a love story that filled my eyes with tears and taking me away to a glistening summer full of hope before returning to reality.
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Grey’s protagonists from the kindhearted Selina to the passionate Lawrence to the shy Alice all contrasted by Selina’s frivolous friends, Lawrence’s Bohemian lifestyle and the Lennox family’s callous nature.
It took me on a journey we have all traversed. We’ve experienced this summer before - young and hopeful for the future, carefree and frivolous, first love and whimsy, the magical sensation that anything is possible. I couldn’t imagine a better pick for a summer read, a gentle reminder of the feelings we have maybe set aside during the realities of 2020.