Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Darling Girls by Emma Burstall

2.5 Star

When world famous music conductor Leo Bruck dies suddenly, he leaves behind three grieving women and a mass of unanswered questions.

Did the man who juggled these simultaneous relationships while thrilling audiences around the globe, direct The Darling Girls like an orchestra?

Victoria, his partner of twenty years and mother of two of his children, regards herself as his rightful widow and keeper of his legacy. However, a series of shocking discoveries forces her to re-examine the man she thought she knew and query the very foundation of their relationship.

Maddy, mother of Leo’s daughter Phoebe, has a high-powered job and seems independent and sorted. But events take a sinister turn when Maddy becomes involved with Victoria’s troubled teenage son, and her safe world starts to go awry.

Finally there’s Cat who, at just 24, is Leo’s youngest lover. Coping with a sick mother and battling demons from her childhood, she is finding it increasingly hard to hold it together. Will grief, anger and bitterness blind her to the possibility of ever finding happiness, career fulfilment - and even, perhaps, new love?

Can these three very different women, whose lives become inextricably bound, break free from the masterful control Leo exerts - even from the grave - once and for all?


Lydia - 2.5 Star

The Darling Girls started interestingly enough, but gradually unravelled for me. Three women share only one common element, their lover, Leo and it is only at his funeral that they meet and discover he had affairs with all three of them, living part of the time in one place and part in another and having a third girl on the side. Devastated by both his death, and the revelation that their lives with Leo were far from perfect like they had thought, they are left to pick up the pieces.

The three women couldn’t have been more different, which was great as they were relatively easy to tell apart. I enjoyed watching the relationships develop between the women. And I particularly loved how Burstall doesn’t shy away from showing the impact of infidelity on the children, and I think this was my favourite aspect of the novel. I found Ralph’s character was the most interesting to follow. And maybe Leo, as all his secrets are gradually uncovered. Cat was my favourite of the women – possible because she has the most action surrounding her from her job at the book store to tending to her ill mother.

I found some telling in this novel where I wanted showing. “My son is mad at me again” was told from Victoria’s point of view, but I thought a scene would have been more appropriate. We could have seen it from each character’s perspective and, in my opinion, it would had much more impact. We could have seen Victoria’s heartbreak and angst as she deals with the situations she comes across as a grieving, now single, mother and her son’s grief and confusion over the situation. And this wasn’t the only occurrence.

Overall, I just couldn’t seem to grasp onto much emotion in this novel. And the above showing, not telling, might be the reason why for me.  So unfortunately I started skimming bits, wanting to find out what happens, but never got really invested and discovered it was pretty predictable, with a few little surprises. I kept reading to find out a few things, particularly the relationship between Maddy and Victoria’s son, Ralph.

I’ve discovered that there are plenty of rave reviews out there for The Darling Girls, so don’t let this deter you. Maybe it was just me. 

Thank you to Emma Burstall for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

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