Back in May I had the absolute pleasure of reading Lucinda Riley’s debut novel, The Orchid House (my review is here). I still find it hard to explain the complete spectrum of emotions I experienced while reading that book. Not only was it exquisitely written, but it took the reader on a journey of unimaginable proportions. When I was offered the opportunity to read Riley’s newest novel, The Girl on the Cliff, I JUMPED at the chance. The story is pretty complex to explain, so I’m going to let Goodreads do it for me:
The mesmerizing story of two Irish families entangled by a tragic past that seems destined to repeat itself. To escape a recent heartbreak in New York, Grania Ryan returns to her family home on the rugged, wind-swept coast of Ireland. Here, on the cliff edge in the middle of a storm, she meets a young girl, Aurora Lisle, who will profoundly change her life.
Despite the warnings Grania receives from her mother to be wary of the Lisle family, Aurora and Grania forge a close friendship. Through a trove of old family letters dating from 1914, Grania begins to learn just how deeply their families’ histories are entwined. The horrors of World War I, the fate of a beautiful foundling child, and the irresistible lure of the ballet give rise to a legacy of heartache that leaves its imprint on each new generation. Ultimately, it will be Aurora whose intuition and spirit may be able to unlock the chains of the past.
Sweeping from Edwardian England to present-day New York, from the majestic Irish coast to the crumbling splendor of a legendary London town house, The Girl on the Cliff introduces two remarkable women whose quest to understand their past sends them toward a future where love can triumph over loss.
Where do I begin? Let’s start with the story. The Girl on the Cliff is a fairy tale, and we all know how much I love them right now. Now it’s not the stereotypical type of fairy tale where a prince rescues a princess, but one that shares the lessons of living in the now, living with forgiveness, and living wholeheartedly with love. Choosing Aurora as the narrator was a perfect choice. She’s an ethereal creature that is above the world of mortals, and she is fortunate enough to understand events and life’s lessons way ahead of her time. When the story begins, Aurora is still a child dealing with the blow of losing her mother. By the end of the novel we see a woman with knowledge and grace way beyond her years. The lessons we’re taught are rough and aren’t dealt with in a “pretty” way. Real life can be ugly so why shouldn’t these lessons reflect that? All of the characters are extremely well-developed and are mesmerizing to follow. Grania and her strengths and weaknesses make her so relatable. Her hopes and dreams, wishes and fears are so similar to the ones we ordinary people feel everyday, that it’s impossible to not relate to her and become entranced by her story.
Also, the pace of the novel was tastefully done, and it progressed in a manner that was not too fast and not too slow. It flowed gracefully, much like the changing positions in ballet (which is a major theme in the novel). I’m still at a loss for adequate words to describe this work, as it was just as enchanting and amazing as Riley’s first work. Her ability to draw the reader in to a world that is totally unique and such a great story is unparalleled. I wholeheartedly encourage you to read her works, I guarantee that readers of all types will enjoy what she has to offer.
To learn about Riley’s inspiration behind this novel, click here.
6 out of 5 Stars
This is my forty-third completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley
Atria Books (2012)
Paperback: 416 pages
Special thanks to Atria Books for my review copy.