Monday, 23 August 2010

The Secret Countess - Eva Ibbotson

So, there I am pondering along the rather uninspiring bookshelves of my local library hoping to God that I don't have to get the bus all the way into Twickenham, my feet aching from London the day before, and simply: I couldn't be asked. So, hopefully, you're picturing that.
Then, WHOOSH. I come across this book, just being replaced on the bookshelf. Pick it up before the greedy looking girl standing next to me does (*gives me a dirty look*) & read the blurb. Sounding interesting, I escape after grabbing yet another Mary Hooper book. After having the librarian smile at me & I can tell thinking 'I remember when she was a little girl', I go out in the pouring rain of lovely summery England & 10 feet down the road, I open the book, whack my Ipod in and start reading. And boy, I love that librarian who put it out on the uninspiring bookcase....

First Sentence: In the fabled, glittering world that was St Petersburg before the First World War there lived, in an ice-blue palace overlooking the river Neva, a family on whom the gods seemed to lavished their gifts with an almost comical abundance.

 St Petersburg 1917. Anna's world is under threat in the dangerous Russian Revolution. The countess, who has lived in a life of luxury all her life, has to escape the country with her much loved family before it's too late.
    London 1919. Now, penniless, Anna starts work at Mersham as a servant to the aristocratic and, like her own family, well loved Westerholmes. But as the young new Earl, Rupert, comes home from war, it's harder for Anna to keep the secret of her true identity from him as she, unaware, starts to fall in love with him...

This book, previously published in 1981 as A Countess Below Stairs (I think I prefer that title), was, I must say, surprising. I've seen it before in Waterstones but it never appealed to me for some reason even though this is the type of book I love. The book has some well loved characters, great story line and a probably not surprising ending. The storyline is the basic normal love story. A girl loves a guy but can't have him and then something happens and it ends happy ever after. But Eva Ibbotson has made it different, you wouldn't guess their feelings if you hadn't read the blurb which I must admit, made it much more enjoyable.
      However, there are a lot of characters involved, I found at times I had to go back and see who said what. Also, there are some sentences that just don't make sense to me or are referring to something that I didn't know happened. The book is well written but at 8am in the morning, lying in bed reading this, my head started to hurt at the beginning of the novel with some of the complicated words Eva has used - I didn't know what half of them meant! Like protuberent, beleagured, buxom. Huh? Dictionary, where are you?
  I would recommend this to anyone that like me, likes a bit of romance and history. It's a classic, brillant, old novel that I think a lot of people would enjoy.

Author doesn't have a website. 

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  1. Sorry didn't think it was this long!

  2. I LOVE this book (I got the A Countess Below Stairs version, though). Iva Ibbotson has some other good books, too, but this was my favorite. Great pick!

  3. Ha, thanks :)
    Yeah, I've never read anything by her before, I should really. Oh good, now I know that her other books are great too.
    Thanks for the commment :)


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