Park Lane - Frances Osborne

*** Great premises, but plot full of flaws highlighted by the ending

I loved this book until before the last chapter, then everything collapsed. I was captured by the London setting just before the First World War, during and after it. The historical reconstruction is so accurate that it brings that period back to life in the mind of the reader.
I found particularly interesting the way in which people’s mentality is represented, above all the way in which women tended to feel insecure, inferior, for the simple fact of being women, aggravated in the case of one of the two protagonists (Grace) by her social class.
Although Beatrice (the other main character) has become part of the suffragettes, she lacks the self-confidence expected in a “revolutionary”. She feels continually out of place, gripped by the fear that drives her to desire to escape so that she can return to the tranquillity of her tedious life as a rich young woman, but at the same time she does not escape, for fear of that tranquillity, which makes her feel useless. What moves her is not idealism, but the search for the emotion that lacks her everyday life. She is very far from the strong woman who is the typical heroine in the novels and this makes her somewhat realistic.
But what glued me to the pages of the book is the unexpected way in which the characters find themselves interacting in the story. The curiosity to find out what would happen next pushed me to read one chapter after another.
And during this reading there were more than a few things that bothered me, but that I put aside, looking forward to the discovery of the next event.
Among these is the character of Grace, so submissive that I had trouble imagining her as an adult. I always thought to see a timid, weak girl.
Another element of annoyance is due to the numerous coincidences. It’s fine that there’s a coincidence in a story. It’s fiction. But when they start to be two, they become less credible.
The same applies for the tragic events, linked to elements of pure bad luck, which seem a kind of stretch to bring the story to a certain direction. Which would also be fine if the result were satisfactory.
Another stretched element is added to this: the characters make important decisions that will have consequences on their lives in a moment, because of the whim of the moment or a misunderstanding that in reality would be easily clarified. This makes them completely unrealistic.
You could even overlook this, if the story ended in a way that gives meaning to everything and satisfies the reader.
But it isn’t like that.
The coincidences that emerge in the eyes of the reader slowly throughout the book are revealed to Beatrice in a moment, in the last scene. The very fact that she gets to understand everything from a few elements is in contrast with the total lack of insightfulness shown during the novel, the one that has made her a victim of huge misunderstandings. To be honest, I do not think even a person who was very perceptive could have come to the same conclusions on their own in a second without even asking a question.
That whole scene is unlikely to say the least and brought down that suspension of disbelief which I had clung to until then in order to give a positive judgment to the book, to whose reading I would return with trepidation every night.
Then the coup de grace was the fact that the book ended there, without showing anything of the consequences of that revelation, as if it were a cliffhanger, but which was not followed by another chapter or a sequel to the novel . It would’ve taken very little to transform it into an open ending, able to leave the reader at least the choice to imagine for themselves what would have happened later. And yet it wasn’t so.
In an instant, faced with that sudden and insipid ending, everything was shattered and the flaws of the book became clear to me. The worst of all is the lack of true inner growth of the characters, who remain crystallised in their flaws, without giving any real meaning to their existence within the story.
Yes, because in the end you find yourself wondering: what is this story about? What does it really want to tell?
The characters look like puppets used only to show a historical period, without playing their main role: being the reason why a story is told.

Park Lane on Amazon.

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