Book Review: The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans

The Beloved Girls had rave reviews on NetGalley and from authors I enjoy reading – and so I requested and was granted an advance review copy (it came out on 19 August 2021 for Kindle and in hard copy – paperback is out in April 2022). Here’s the blurb:

‘It’s a funny old house. They have this ceremony every summer . . . There’s an old chapel, in the grounds of the house. Half-derelict. The Hunters keep bees in there. Every year, on the same day, the family processes to the chapel. They open the combs, taste the honey. Take it back to the house. Half for them -‘ my father winced, as though he had bitten down on a sore tooth. ‘And half for us.’
Catherine, a successful barrister, vanishes from a train station on the eve of her anniversary. Is it because she saw a figure – someone she believed long dead? Or was it a shadow cast by her troubled, fractured mind?
The answer lies buried in the past. It lies in the events of the hot, seismic summer of 1989, at Vanes – a mysterious West Country manor house – where a young girl, Jane Lestrange, arrives to stay with the gilded, grand Hunter family, and where a devastating tragedy will unfold. Over the summer, as an ancient family ritual looms closer, Janey falls for each member of the family in turn. She and Kitty, the eldest daughter of the house, will forge a bond that decades later, is still shaping the present . . .”

Apart from the weird poem at the start – the book starts in the present day with Catherine and her family in central London. She’s a successful barrister who has just lost a case and is clearly struggling with the aftermath. Then – she disappears when she’s supposed to be heading off on an anniversary trip with her husband to France. At the end of this section there is then a twist based on on old photo – but it’s exactly the same twist as in another book I read recently #weird

It then flashes back – and is told from different points of view – to teenagers in the late1980s (lots of this was incredibly familiar having been a teenager in the same era!) and then even further back to the parents of the teenagers in their youth.

You know that the storyline is going to build up to a big tragedy in 1989 – although you don’t know exactly what it’s going to be.

The main problem was, I didn’t really give a toss about any of the characters – and the whole bee b*llocks, was just plain weird,

I pushed through, hoping to find what was missing and what everyone else had loved – and because I hate letting a book beat me (The Goldfinch anyone?!?) but it just didn’t click with me at all. Others appear to have loved it – but it just didn’t do it for me. It felt too long, too boring, too simplistic language – it wasn’t badly written or offensive – just a bit of a waste of a few hours of reading.

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