The Echo of Twilight: A Novel. Judith Kinghorn. Penguin Publishing Group. January 2017. 400 pp. ISBN #: 9780451472106.
Pearl Gibson loves to travel, to move up, to make up names for herself and tales she tells strangers, lying to embellish and enchant mundane reality! She’s good at it or perhaps one should say she was good at it until she was caught in one of her brilliant fabrications. On the way to interview for a job as a lady’s maid, she gives her name as Ottoline, the name of her soon to be employer, to a fine looking man she meets at a railroad station. Just a stranger, right? Ha!
In fact, the real Ottoline Campbell who hires Pearl is a unique woman who does exactly as she pleases during an era when women’s roles were quite circumscribed. Ottoline’s attitude to Pearl from the very beginning is more of a friend than employer, although when displeased she lets Pearl know her place. Very quickly, Pearl learns about the family secrets but it isn’t her place to comment. Pearl then meets a family relative and they immediately bond. Now Ottoline has a secret that binds her to Pearl even deeper, a truth that is unfortunately or fortunately, depending on one’s point of view, shunted to the side with the beginning of World War I in 1914. Ottoline’s sons and so many other sons in the area join the military fight out of patriotic duty. Some will die; some will return as scarred, traumatized wrecks! Pearl soon has a secret that she entrusts to Ottoline, who now evolves into Pearl’s protector and more than friend.
Pearl’s tension from the war and its shocking effects builds up until one day she breaks and spews out what she perceives as the truth, an act that mandates she leave the Campbell home to become the independent woman she needs to be. Years later, she will return under totally unexpected circumstances.
This story has been told many times before this novel was written. The essence of this story, however, is quite unique. What rules our lives – fate, destiny, choices, rebellion, conformity – what? Judith Kinghorn is a very skilled author who crafts a mesmerizing account of how the vicissitudes of life dramatically shift during wartime. Every character is dramatically changed forever and the reader is honored to have shared the dramatic lives within these pages.
The Echo of Twilight is an amazing work of historical fiction that this reviewer highly recommends!