How far must you run to leave the past behind you?
It is 1919 and the end of the war has not brought peace for Emeline Vane. Lost in grief, she is suddenly alone at the heart of a depleted family. She can no longer cope. And as everything seems to be slipping beyond her control, in a moment of desperation, she boards a train and runs away.
Fifty years later, a young solicitor on his first case finds Emeline’s diary. What Bill Perch finds in the tattered pages of neat script goes against everything he has been told. He begins to trace an anguished story of love and betrayal that will send him on a journey to discover the truth.
I closed my eyes as I tried to pick apart every flavour, because nothing had ever tasted so good before. It was love and it could not be hidden.What really happened to Emeline all those years ago?
Where the Wild Cherries Grow has a stunning, eye catching cover with an equally as interesting title that really does make you want to pick up the book immediately. This is Laura Madeleine's second book and it was only as I was looking through the first few pages that I realised that Laura's début The Confectioner's Tale was sitting waiting patiently to be read in my TBR pile. This is something I will have to rectify as soon as possible because this new book proved to be an absorbing dual time line read that kept me interested and guessing for the majority of the story.
The prologue was very short and was set in April 1919 – a man and a women are out at night almost trying to keep themselves secret as they walk along a cliff and reach a ledge to discover a cherry tree growing. Even though this may only have been a page or two so many questions sprung to mind. Who were the couple? What were they doing out at night and wanting it a secret from others? Such a sense of mystery was created with a few words and I felt this permeated its way through the entire novel. The author used as few words as possible to convey what she wanted to say but those that she did utilise were done so to great effect and the reader knew exactly what she wanted to get across.
Also the vivid imagery conjured throughout made a lot of the story speak for itself and yes there was some filling in the gaps to be done by the reader but that is all part of a story of this nature. It's nice to discover at the end whether what you have been guessing was correct or were you completely thrown off track. In this case I was grasping at vague strands of the story but could never fully bind them together to come up with the correct answer. Yet at the same time when that big reveal came I wasn't overly surprised and in a way that made me slightly disappointed as I was hoping for something else. That's not to say it detracted from my reading and enjoyment of the story. It's my own personal opinion others may think it all came together for a hugely surprising revelation but I wasn't blown away and I think it's because with other books with this dual time line mystery element had me reeling slightly from the outcome and this didn't.
The story is told in two time periods 1919 and 1969. In the summer of 1969 the days are hot, humid and long and solicitor's assistant Bill Perch is going through the daily motions of working in an office where he feels under utilised and under valued. He longs to be given a case where he can really get stuck in and show off his talents. Quite frankly he is bored of the daily drudgery and even things at home are forever the same, his relationship with his girlfriend is also becoming stale. So when he is unexpectedly given his first case Bill grabs the bull by the horns and is determined to make a success of it. I think Bill's boss only gave him the case because he believed it to be all cut and dry and that no deeper level of thinking would be involved. Bill has to prove that the aunt of Mrs. Mallory – Emeline Vane is in fact dead and has been for some time. If this proves to be true the ownership of Hallerton House can be transferred and in turn the house can be sold to a property developer. Bill relishes the chance to break out on his own and get out of the office and in a way hopes to prove himself worthy of taking on more cases. Little does Bill realise everything is not as simple as it seems on paper and by taking on this case he too will under go a transformation and become deeply invested in a story that has been kept under wraps for so many years.
As Bill travels to Hallerton House on the train the reader can sense a different strand of the story is about to come into play. The heat of the summer days as mentioned before plays a part as to how he begins his search for answers and I felt because it was so hot, humid and still the tone of the book became like this too. Hallerton House although abandoned became an other worldly setting where its inhabitants had long gone yet answers were still there waiting to be uncovered. Jem Durant, a cousin of Bill's boss, came onto the scene and in fact I wanted her to feature even more than she did. She became a support to Bill as I think she believed he needed to keep digging deeper to uncover what had actually happened.
In the beginning I felt Bill was weak, a pushover a dogsbody more or less and he would jump at anything in order to move his career on a bit. But as the story progressed he grew in strength both professionally and personally and he became a better man. He soon discovered proving whether Emeline was still alive was not as easy as first thought and just as Bill became more intrigued so did I .I wanted to know all the answers straight away and even though the chapters were short and anyone would fly through this book in one sitting if they had the time the pace of discovery was as long as the summer days Bill spend toiling away in a study. I did like Bill as a character yet never felt any real affinity with him. If I had to pick which aspect of the story I preferred it would be that of Emmeline's because it was set further back in the past and that is where the answers lay.
As the chapters moved between Bill and Emeline's points of view many years apart I found myself rushing through Bill's section to get back to Emmeline. She was a young woman completely torn in two and deeply affected by the loss of her mother and brother's. A line on the cover of the book says -How far must you run to leave the past behind you? It seems Emeline had to run far enough away to leave what tormented her right there in the past but can we truly run away and expect everything to miraculously disappear? Emeline was searching for the passion so lacking in her home life and although she doesn't want to leave her younger brother or Hallerton house behind it was clear she was faced with no other choice. When the chance arises to slip away given where her Uncle was proposing to take her I'm glad she did so because if she hadn't the beautiful scenes set far away would never occurred and a tentative romance could never have taken place. I really did feel for Emeline and the situation she found forced upon herself. She was away from everything she knew, her normality or what could be termed that and there was no chance she could readily return home.
I loved the scenes set where Emeline found herself. Yes it was a hot climate but it was different to the heat Bill was experiencing and therefore the tone of this aspect of the book was different. It was a place of comfort and solace and somewhere Emeline could adapt and find her true self. She could heal. The characters featured here weren't as welcoming at first and I totally understood this because if a stranger arrives amongst you with little warning you can't be so open without questions running through your mind. These sections featuring Emeline were the strongest of the book and really moved the story on. The descriptions of the food cooked were simply mouthwatering and really helped the overall imagery the author was trying to convey throughout.
For the most part I really did enjoy Where the Wild Cherries grow but it didn't prove to quite as epic a historical fiction tale as it could have been, yes the element of surprise was there but I wanted even more of it. As regards the ending I am glad the author wrote it the way she did. It wasn't a cop out and slightly different from the norm. This book is ideal if you like a light historical fiction read that you can fly through in a couple of hours. I would be interested to see what story the author turns her hand to next. Meanwhile I think I will go back and read The Confectioner's Tale to see how it compares and contrasts to Where the Wild Cherries Grow.
Many thanks to Hannah at Transworld for sending me a copy of Where the Wild Cherries Grow to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.