“Sometimes an ending is really a beginning…”
There’s nothing like a family squabble to set the juices flowing. But in THE FAMILY INHERITANCE, main character Felicity is handed more than her fair share of drama in the opening scenes. I really could not put this book down and raced back to the pages at every opportunity. I’m not sure if it's because there are so many connections I could make due to experience, age and gender, or whether the easy flowing style and undulating narrative pace of Tricia’s novels just keeps the perfect amount of intrigue to whet my appetite. Either way, this book is a winner for me. A story about a legacy of lies and its effects on a family is hard to trump.
Felicity is celebrating her significant number birthday and all is well. Her newly renovated home is shining like a diamond and her adult daughter, Greta, and close-to-retirement husband Ian, are there beside her. But straight away we are thrown into Felicity’s drama. Her difficult father, Franklyn, and mother Hazel have not arrived — and from the beginning her father’s menace is hinted at. We soon discover that the women in this family fare the worst. The act of Franklyn’s death and the conditions he has enforced through the legacy of his will, serve to keep his family tightly in his grip, even after death. But Felicity’s life moves from one agonising shock to another, and soon the person she believed herself to be is in question.
Her mother, Hazel is a terrific model of a long-suffering wife who has been controlled by the actions of a misogynist husband. While Hazel’s guilt at finding release in her husband’s death is an unusual but understandable sensation, it’s the immediate reaction of eldest daughter, June, that urges Hazel to display her inner fortitude. Hazel is irritated by June’s sudden reverse role position — her ‘mothering’ and control soon mirrors Franklyn’s behaviour. But Hazel refuses to be subjected to social exclusion in old age, or to continue to be told what to do. Vastly different to her relationship with Franklyn, a new friendship with the sweet and supportive Jack blooms. Soon, a chasm is driven between Hazel and her daughter Felicity, and grows wider than Hazel ever imagined possible.
Felicity’s daughter, Greta, in some ways becomes the driving force of the narrative as she witnesses the social and emotional pressures that the women of the family are forced to adhere to. She struggles with doubt in her relationship— her desire to fly is at odds with her lovely fiancé Joe’s insistence on financial security and marriage. As Greta’s family continue to fall apart, she sees her mother and grandmother have been caught in the vacuum of her grandfather’s arrogance, and that it has the potential to drive the older women into financial poverty. Greta becomes the glue to keep them together, the go-between who navigates the paths between each member of her family and the fallout they have suffered —she desperately tries to mend their severed relationships.
The light in this entire story for me is Alice. This beautiful older woman is so open and welcoming to the family she has been a recluse from for her adult life. I loved her portrayal as independent but insular, living a quiet life on the outskirts of town, peaceful and serene. It is Alice who gently works to reunite with Hazel, and has the inner strength and desire to try to pull Felicity from despair.
The men in this story have a lesser role, but their influence is considerable. I would have liked a little more of Tony, the builder friend of Felicity’s, but it is the women’s relationships that this story develops so well. Felicity’s husband and his actions were predictably irritating and reprehensible — perfectly depicted —perhaps just a little too close to truth than I cared to see.
More importantly, this book explores the restrictions women can be faced with from the time of marriage onwards. It looks at the various financial concerns they face in relationships and then at every stage of their lives. Its sensitive address of financial abuse, of elder abuse and the significant economic disadvantages that older women face and have fallen victim to, is clear and compelling. Sadly, this is not just something that happened to generations of the past.
There is no doubt that THE FAMILY INHERITANCE perfectly displays the expertise of Tricia Stringer’s writing. She’s a wonderful author whose books are a delight in every way. These characters are vivid, the day-to-day life concerns are simplistic, yet highly emotive, and this type of family relationship could be happening to a family next door —in fact, more than likely, it probably is!
A ***** star read.
Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.