I really enjoy books based on events from history so top marks to The Inheritance, Anne Allen’s seventh book in the Guernsey novel series, a fictional account of Victor Hugo’s exile from France which is set in my favourite Channel Island.
An intriguing time-slip novel, The Inheritance compares the life of modern-day GP, Tess, with that of Hugo’s loyal copyist Eugenie, who, despite working closely with the author she admired, never really found true happiness.
Exiled from his native France in the 1860s, Hugo sought solace in Guernsey, where he wrote the now classic Les Misérables and where his magnificent home, Hauteville House, is still open to the public today.
Anne Allen has carefully researched the author’s life at that time, using real people from his household to authenticate her novel. When Tess inherits her great aunt’s run-down home, which once belonged to Eugenie, she begins to wonder if she could be descended from Hugo. Stumbling upon a writing desk complete with personal diaries from the era, she’s determined to discover the truth.
As a reader, it’s easy to care about Eugenie, from the tragedy that befalls her at the beginning of the book, through her move up the social scale to her marriage to a man who, sadly, goes on to mistreat her. Meanwhile, though Eugenie clearly loves her employer, the question remains – is she in love with him? We must wait until the end to find out.
While Eugenie finds life a struggle, Tess is delighted to return to live on the island of her birth, greatly assisted by a good-looking boyfriend who also happens to be a property developer. The way her life falls so easily back into place is a little difficult to believe but, as Tess is a likeable heroine, all is forgiven.
The author has researched the life of Victor Hugo, and, having lived on Guernsey herself, has a very good knowledge of the island.
When Tess discovers the antique writing desk that finally connects her to Eugenie, she suspects it might have been a shrine: ‘A shrine to Victor Hugo by Eugenie Sarchet, her three times great grandmother and who had kept items once belonging to her famous employer.’ She’s desperate to know more.
Fortunately, the long-lost writing desk answers a multitude of questions and carries the story along to a happy conclusion. Altogether a great read.