The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick – two time periods with an overlapping tale?
This two time period book is very clever, and incredibly atmospheric. The fates of Lizzie Kingdom, celebrity and tv personality and Amy Robsart, wife of Robert Dudley, in 1560 seem intertwined. Lizzie is the focus of the Present Day sections, which alternate with chapters on the life of Amy Robsart. Robert Dudley was the favourite of Elizabeth I, who like Lizzie had a much married father and a mother who died tragically young. Lizzie, childhood friend of Dudley, has long been associated with him, despite the fact that he is married to Amelia. Unfortunately for Lizzie, when Amelia dies in suspicious circumstances, her close association with Dudley is questioned.
Fans of contemporary thrillers will find much to interest them in this book, as Lizzie’s life becomes complicated by scandal and suggestions that she was somehow involved in Amelia’s death. Historical fiction enthusiasts will be fascinated by Amy’s story, as she tells of her young love and subsequent ambitious marriage. The period of history she lives through is a tempestuous one; Henry VIII’s attempt to leave a male heir has only succeeded in leaving Edward, now on the throne but physically frail. The struggle to take power after his death affect’s Amy via her ambitious husband and her own family. In the twenty first century Lizzie lives a pampered and isolated life, but nothing is certain in the culture of celebrity. I found this an intriguing and exciting book and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.
The book opens with two events. Lizzie is attending Amelia and Dudley’s wedding in 2010, when a strange accident at the foot of a staircase leads Lizzie to meet Johnny Robsart, Amelia’s younger brother. Lizzie has one of her periodic visions or experiences resulting from her strange gift of seeing the past of objects. Amy meets the ambitious Robert again in August 1549, and become betrothed. Lizzie now is in the present day, a star of television, experienced child star, looked after by Kat since her mother’s death. Into her exciting and lucrative life comes the bombshell that Amelia has died, just as there was talk of a divorce, and against a background of Lizzie and Dudley’s long – term friendship. As the police investigate Dudley’s possible involvement in Amelia’s death, Lizzie is also accused by a fickle public and loses some of her opportunities for work. Meanwhile in the 1500s, the Dudley family gamble on the succession of Lady Jane Grey to Edward’s throne, and not all goes to plan.
This clever time slip novel explores the links between the present instability of celebrity life and the unpredictable nature of the Tudor court. A look at the “Cast of Key Characters” which mentions those of the Present Day and the Tudor Story reveals the character names of both periods as being similar. Lizzie Kingdom is mirrored in Elizabeth Tudor, Dudley Lester is reflected in Robert Dudley. Other names mentioned in the novel overlap the two periods. The story of Amy Robsart is a well known historical mystery, the fate of Amelia has echoes many centuries later. This is a book which will appeal to those who have some knowledge of the historic period, who will enjoy spotting the suggestions of links with the present day story. There is an element of the supernatural in Lizzie’s gift of unsettling knowledge of objects. The story is cleverly written so that those with no knowledge of the history are enabled to discover the facts along with Lizzie. The story of the two women is beautifully interlinked, and the book is cleverly constructed. The element of mystery is well maintained, and the suspense is well built up. This is a novel that will appeal to many readers, and I recommend it as a clever and satisfying read.
Meanwhile the good news is that a careful search behind some of daughter’s stuff revealed some fugitive Pym novels! Together with what Husband bought the other day, I am probably covering all of her books (except Quartet which I am not tackling). Georgette Heyer and Angela Thirkell for older books with BP, some newer books and the just published like this one. Quite the variety as promised!