☆••*´¨`*•.☆•• 5-stars ☆••*´¨`*•.☆••
A masterful collaboration—a rich, multigenerational novel of love and loss that spans half a century….
1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.
Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel’s portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate? And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother? In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known. But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room?
The Forgotten Room, set in alternating time periods, is a sumptuous feast of a novel brought to vivid life by three brilliant storytellers.
You’ve heard the saying that everything comes in three? The Forgotten Room is a good example of that saying: 3 authors, 3 voices, 3 romances, 3 generations, 3 betrayals…and 1 house. The Forgotten room is a complex and gripping tale of three women in late 19th/early 20th century America.
When I picked up The Forgotten Room, I didn’t notice that it had three contributing authors. In fact, I didn’t notice that there is more than one author until preparing to write my review. That says a lot about the seamless writing and editing involved in creating this novel.
Since there are three story lines, each featuring a different lead female character from different eras, I assume that each author wrote the story of one of those women, and then they pieced their stories together like master quilters. The one oddity, which I didn’t notice until the last few chapters of the book (because I was that engrossed in the story), is that the one story in the present time period is told in the first person, while the two storylines from past generations is told in third person perspective. Since The Forgotten Room starts and ends in the present time period, and is ultimately about the characters in the present era unlocking the secrets of the past, I can appreciate that a third person perspective is used for long-dead characters’ stories.
The Forgotten Room is rich and complex. The thrill of this book is in the multi-era journey of finding the figurative keys that will unlock the mystery of the beautiful forgotten room at the top of the Pratt mansion. In this room, each of the women (Olive in 1892, Lucy in 1920 or Kate in 1944) finds seemingly ill-fated love. Are these relationships doomed or did the women misinterpret their worry over disappointment and regret? Is it passion, or not following your passion, that leads to disappointment and regret? It might be hard to decide which is true when your gender and station in life restrict your expectations and aspirations. Beyond that little pondering, I will not ruin a good read by divulging any more of the sumptuous details.
The slow reveal of the mystery, the changing time periods and the interconnections between the three storylines can feel overwhelming, but stick with the story. All will be revealed as the three storylines come together. I relished the delicious details as I learned the connections between the characters in each era and with characters from past eras.
From the first page to the last, I was captivated by the compelling characters, the vivid imagery, the complex plot line, the sense of destiny, fate and just-missed opportunities, and, of course, the house. I found myself reading long past my bedtime because I just had to know how the characters are related and what ultimately happened to each of them. Days after finishing The Forgotten Room, I’m still thinking about the story and having little “a-ha” moments as I remember small, telling details that are important now that I know how the storylines fit together.
I haven’t read any of the authors’ prior work, but I’m definitely putting their books on my TBR list after reading The Forgotten Room. I think this book will appeal to fans of historical fiction and/or historical romance (such as Susanna Kearsley novels). A 5-star, highly-recommend read for me; The Forgotten Room is as beautiful and magical as an Augustus Ravenel painting.