[Review] Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame
Published: 1 May 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Edition: U.S. Paperback
Summary: ” Eighteen-year-old Maggie Darlington has turned into an entirely different person. The once spirited teen is now passive and reserved. A change Lord and Lady Darlington can’t help but be grateful for.
It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just the extensive grounds to maintain. As one of Britain’s most elite families, they need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been…even as their carefully constructed façade rapidly comes undone.
Maggie has a secret. And she’s not the only one…the handsome groom Michael, the beautiful new French nanny Therese, the Darlingtons’ teenage houseguests Teddy and Jessica, and even Maggie’s younger sister Lila are all hiding something. Passion, betrayal, heartache, and whispered declarations of love take place under the Darlingtons’ massive roof. And one of these secrets has the power to ruin the Darlingtons forever.
When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, everyone is looking over their shoulder, worrying their scandal will be next. Because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long.”
I, along with 99% of readers, picked up Wentworth Hall from Barnes & Noble’s shelves because I love Downton Abbey. Currently this book has a 2.88 rating on Goodreads which will tell you the average reaction to this book. While I thought it was mediocre it was not because it was a disappointment in comparison to Downton Abbey, it was because the characters lacked the depth that good YA books usually possess.
Maggie, who I kept reading as Mary Crawley, was a typical unlikeable rich girl with a bad attitude, and her character throughout the book only grows to be more unlikeable. I found it quite odd that she was introduced as the central character and then sidelined without much else from her perspective in the rest of the book. The twist at the end felt uncomfortable, given that it involved Mar-I mean Maggie showed very little signs of being changed by something that is life changing. Her new ‘maturity’ was not enough to convince me that she was anything but a child who the author used for a plot twist. I understand that if she had given away some more signs of bodily or emotional change the plot twist would have been too obvious. I greatly enjoyed the interspersed caricature newspaper publications that I imagined in the kind of stop-motion that Harry Potter used to convey the three deathly hallows story. If only the rest of the story had been that interesting!
I can’t give it the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps I couldn’t like it as much because none of the characters were likable. Not even the maid, Nora. Divergent has many characters that I can’t identify with but I can still connect with the story and understand the reactions of the characters based on my understanding of their personalities. Unfortunately Wentworth Hall doesn’t have the same well thought out character development and so their actions as the story unfolds doesn’t meet with expectation.
Given that this is Grahame’s first attempt at writing a novel, I salute her caricatures and hope that she writes another book to show off the talents that she does have. Perhaps something that people won’t read with expectations of drawing similarities to tv shows.