Reviewed by Patty Friedrichs
All you ever need to know about the Edwardians, you can learn from Downton Abbey: women are second-class citizens, class distinctions are rigid and the Great War is just around the corner. The allure of Downton lies in its gloss and superficiality. Strip away the elaborate costumes and the lavish country house, and all that is left is a soap opera full of will-they-won’t-they love triangles, loyalty, betrayal and murder, with Maggie Smith in the role of Dot Cotton. Park Lane is set in the same era and tells similar stories, but is much more rewarding than Downton because Frances Osborne can actually write.
Bea and Grace live in the same house, but in two completely different worlds. You already know where this is going, don’t you? One is a wealthy railway heiress; the other a housemaid. They both long for change and the Great War provides them with plenty of adventure and causes their futures to intertwine in unexpected ways.
It is a shame that Osborne does not use her talent to write about something different. Everyone and their mother has written about the Edwardian period as seen from a woman’s point of view. It is such a fascinating time in British history that everyone seems to want to contribute their twopence worth. It is rare that something truly original is added to the mix. The best books about the Edwardian era (both fiction and non-fiction) are the ones that were written by people who actually lived through it.
Park Lane is meticulously researched, but that is not enough to create an authentic atmosphere. This is by no means to say that it is a bad book. It is just unoriginal. If you do not object to unoriginality, care for decent writing, and simply want to read a book that will tide you over until the third series of Downton, Park Lane is for you.
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