This was a novel I really enjoyed reading. Good story, interesting characters and lovely setting.
Mathilde’s story starts in 1914 when, aged 14, she begins work at a chalet in the French Alps. The chalet was built several years before by Sir Anthony Valentine, a keen mountaineer, and he and his family use it as their summer home. “Les anglais” are regarded with suspicion but they employ people from the local community as alpine guides and and hire girls to work in the house, usually ugly ones so Sir Anthony will not be tempted, it is rumoured.
Mathilde is one of these and the novel follows her relationship with the Valentine family over many years and the gradual uncovering of secrets. As well as Mathilde’s life story there are chapters set in 1976 when George, Sir Anthony’s great-great grandson comes to stay after his parents have died in an accident.
There are evocative descriptions of the grandeur and beauty of the alpine scenery as well as reminders of the dangers. Both stories are engrossing. The slow unravelling of the secrets is beautifully done with a clever building up of the tension. I was very impressed with the writing – intriguing plotting and yet there are deeper themes of love, identity and different cultures.
Highly recommended as a personal read and I think this might become one of the reading group favourites for 2017.
Berwyn Peet 5/5
The Valentine House by Emma Henderson
Sceptre 9781444704020 hbk April 2017