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The Last Camellia: A Novel

The Last Camellia: A Novel - Sarah Jio An apparently innocuous English estate, home to the last of a much-prized variety of camellia, becomes the site of mystery, murder, and intrigue across the years. Right before the beginning of WWII, Flora is convinced by a ring of thieves to take a job as a nanny in order to locate the camellia. Falling in love complicates her plans substantially and puts her in great danger. Over fifty years later, Addison moves into the manor in an attempt to escape her past. Now both her past and that of the manor are catching up to her and if she doesn’t solve the mystery of what happened to Flora, she might be in grave danger as well.

The first thing I noticed about The Last Camellia was how little I noticed the writing. It was technically good, but it didn’t blow me away the way much of the women’s fiction I’ve read lately has (The Husband’s Secret, The Girl You Left Behind). It just introduced you to the plot and then stepped aside. I did get completely caught up in the plot though. There was a lot more suspense then I anticipated, largely because our two protagonists were in far more danger than I expected. For all of the excitement though, the reader learns about a lot of the action second hand, which made me feel less connected to the story.

Lately I’ve really been enjoying the dual narrative format and this book was no exception. I actually liked it even more than most because the two protagonists lived close enough in time to one another that they could arrive at the same location; meet the same people; and discover the same places. However, as the events of their story mirrored each other exactly throughout the story, the amount of similarity passed the bounds of believability. It pulled me out of the narrative quite a bit because the exact parallels between their stories felt so contrived that they reminded me this was just a story. I also found the ending very contrived, with the reader’s surprise at the ending relying on the characters also being surprised by things I cannot believe they wouldn’t know. So at the end of the day, this book was exciting and objectively well written, but I just couldn’t connect with it. Too many things were constantly reminding me that it was just a story.

This review first published on Doing Dewey.