Monday, October 3, 2022

Review: The Keepsake

Title: The Keepsake
Author: Julie Brooks

Publisher: 29th September 2022 by Headline

Pages: 384 pages

Genre: historical fiction

My Rating: 4.5 cups


A woman who defied convention. A mystery that will take centuries to solve.

The Keepsake is a thrilling dual-time novel, with a fascinating, complex woman at its heart, wealth of twists, turns and secrets, and an absolute book club treat.

Saturday: Pot-au-feu for luncheon. Father willed away inheritance. Betrayed by Edward.

1832. The morning after her father's funeral, Prudence Merryfield wakes to the liberating thought that this is the first day of her new life. At thirty-five and unmarried, she is now mistress of her own fate. But a cruel revelation at the reading of her father's will forces Prudence to realise that taking only the most drastic action will set her free.

Present day. Eliza is gifted a family heirloom by her aunt - a Georgian pocket book, belonging to her ancestor, Prudence Merryfield, whose existence reverberates through the lives of generations of Eliza's family, the Ambroses. Intrigued by what she reads inside, Eliza is drawn more and more into the infamous 'Merryfield Mystery'. What happened to Prudence who so bravely dared to defy convention two hundred years ago - then disappeared?

My Thoughts

The Keepsake is a well researched and written dual timeline novel by Julie. In the contemporary timeline Eliza struggles to run her parent’s antique shop attempting to stay true to the promise she made to her dying mother. What she truly wishes for is to follow her own passions. When her aunt gifts her a tiny pocket book once belonging to her ancestor’s wife, she begins a journey to unravel its mystery. The ancestor, Prudence, went missing twice - once in 1833 shipwrecked in Samoa and again in 1838 where suspicions surround the possibility of foul play.

‘Prudence Merryfield. Lady Adventuress. A man might not deem her so, for unlike the heroes of most adventure tales, she sought neither to conquer nor to name. Not a single mountain, not a lone river, not an empty space upon a map. It was her own self she wished to discover. The terra incognita of the interior.’

I loved the tale of Prudence’s life. When her wealthy father dies, being the only child, she expects to finally be able to live a life of her own. However, society of the age made no allowances for such desires. Determined, Prudence escapes to embark on a world adventure. ‘She enjoyed being a Lady Adventuress. She did not wish to be lured back to the comforts of hearth and home. She did not wish to settle. And she vowed not to be returned against her will.’ I always admire and respect tales of women who pursued such undertakings and Prudence’s story proved an eventful and unforgettable tale. 

‘… maybe the notion of safety was just that - a notion. A fancy. And you could become lost in the storm, no matter how hard you clung to the mast. Maybe sometimes you just needed to let go.’

The contemporary narrative is the perfect compliment to this tale with Eliza drawn into the mystery and secrets surrounding both disappearances of Prudence. What happened all those years ago? Both women - Eliza and Prudence - are on a journey of self discovery in pursuit of a life well lived. 

‘Somehow, she would find a way to chart her own course and be her own woman. She alone would determine what her life was to be. And that would be whatever she was brave enough to make it.’

Full of adventure through both heartfelt and heartbreaking moments, The Keepsake is sure to lure you in. Venturing from Somerset (both past and present) and Samoa of the 1830s, this is a well researched book of the life and times involving travel and gender/social inequalities. There are secrets and drama, with just the right amount of romance for both of these women. Such an absorbing and refreshing read that will engage readers right up until the final revelation. 

‘Both found their way back to England. Then one woman disappeared again. Forever. Was she murdered? Or did she choose her destiny?’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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