When Julia Forrester was a young girl, she loved to visit the Wharton Park estate her grandfather worked as the gardener. There he tended the beautiful orchids rarely found in England and was renowned for his hybrids.
Now years later, Julia is back in England after the deaths of her young son and husband. Consumed with grief, Julia barely has the will to live, until one day her sister suggests they go to the estate sale at Wharton Park. There Julia is reacquainted with Kit, the current Lord Crawford, whom she remembers from her youth. Later Kit will bring Julia a diary believed to be her grandfather’s which holds many long dead secrets and will have shocking effects on the current generations.
The secondary storyline is of Harry Crawford, his role in World War II, his constricting duty to Wharton Park and an affair with the love of his life that will leave devastating consequences in its wake.
I thought The Orchid House was just ok, I didn’t connect with the some of the main characters and I wasn’t invested in Harry’s story. I couldn’t muster the sympathy I was supposed to feel for him. Instead I found Olivia to be the most victimized and sympathetic character.
The dialogue drove me crazy. I love good English slang and part of the novel focuses on the time period of World War II so some of the slang used was relevant to the time, but if I had to read one more “jolly good” or “old boy” I was going to throw the book. As it is, I was gritting my teeth through it.
Some of the plot devices were unnecessary and made the story less enjoyable for me. The climax and also the storyline involving Alicia could have been cut and the novel would have been more enjoyable for me. I would have liked the focus in France to be more on Julia coming to terms with losing Gabriel and less on what it was.
Then there’s the climax. Yes, I was shocked, but not in a good way. It left me sick to my stomach and disgusted. There was no good reason for it to be in there other than shock value. I don’t think it did anything for the story at all and the additional pages wasted impeded the story for me. It was just horrible and completely unbelievable.
Overall, The Orchid House didn’t cut it for me. I’ll happily wait for the next Kate Morton book if I’m looking for a wonderful English novel with depth and wonderful characters with an engrossing plot.