Escaping from heartache in New York, artist Katie returns to London to stay with her Aunt Rachel, owner of a niche valuation and auctioneer house. Rachel hopes to help Katie deal with her despondency by asking her to assist employee Paul with the cataloguing of the contents of an old house by the sea. Paul has his own torment to deal with and is reluctant to share time with a stranger, but despite his protests, he is obliged to do so anyway.
Endsleigh, the house they are sent to, was home during the 1930s to the Blythe sisters, society’s most celebrated debutantes of the time. One of the sisters, Diana went missing, and it is this mystery that Katie is determined to solve. The story follows Katie’s efforts to find out more about the sisters and the events that unfolded at Endsleigh all those years ago. Interspersed with this are letters that were sent by Diana during the 1920s and 30s, which give a glimpse into her life and loves.
I have read one of Kathleen Tessaro’s previous novels, her debut Elegance, and found The Debutante to be just as sumptuous and engaging. I love a good mystery, and especially one set during one of my favourite eras. All of the characters, modern and past, were well developed by the author , so I empathised with them and understood the motivations for their actions. The use of the letters was a brilliant tool, enabling readers to see actions from the point of view of the key players in the past actions, rather than just through the eyes of those looking back. I read the book in one sitting, because it was a well flowing, easy read, though that is not to suggest that it is in the realms of ‘chick lit’ fluff, because it is certainly classier than that. The writing was divine, and the conversations in the book were believable. I also loved the Author’s note at the end of the book where she describes her influences for the story, and how she overcame problems during the writing of it, which gave a great insight into the life of a writer.
Kathleen Tessaro has a new book out in April 2013, which I have added to my ‘to read’ list – The Perfume Collector – and hope it is as enjoyable to read as The Debutante was.
The Literary Owl rating: 8/10
Read with: a glass of champagne and some jazz playing on the stereo.