My review of Talland House by Maggie Humm

 

Royal Academy, London 1919: Lily has put her student days in St. Ives, Cornwall, behind her—a time when her substitute mother, Mrs. Ramsay, seemingly disliked Lily’s portrait of her and Louis Grier, her tutor, never seduced her as she hoped he would. In the years since, she’s been a suffragette and a nurse in WWI, and now she’s a successful artist with a painting displayed at the Royal Academy. Then Louis appears at the exhibition with the news that Mrs. Ramsay has died under suspicious circumstances. Talking to Louis, Lily realizes two things: 1) she must find out more about her beloved Mrs. Ramsay’s death (and her sometimes-violent husband, Mr. Ramsay), and 2) She still loves Louis.

Set between 1900 and 1919 in picturesque Cornwall and war-blasted London, Talland House takes Lily Briscoe from the pages of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and tells her story outside the confines of Woolf’s novel—as a student in 1900, as a young woman becoming a professional artist, her loves and friendships, mourning her dead mother, and solving the mystery of her friend Mrs. Ramsay’s sudden death. Talland House is both a story for our present time, exploring the tensions women experience between their public careers and private loves, and a story of a specific moment in our past—a time when women first began to be truly independent.

Paperback352 Pages / Published: 03/09/2020Publisher:  She Writes Press



Closing her bedroom door, Lily felt her eyes moisten, thinking about the portrait. Here she was again, held in the aura of Mrs.Ramsay, not wanting to escape. Yet if she completed the painting, she would be free from her, and her mother, too, or at least they’d not be so continually present, if lives could be contained within a frame, a perspective, a brushstroke. 
Grief is not a prerequisite for reading, Talland House by Maggie Humm; neither is Virginia Woolf’s, To The Lighthouse for that matter. The reader does not have to suffer parental loss to identify with Lily Briscoe’s character or friendship with Mrs.Ramsay which triggers reminders of her own deceased mother. Even though Lily is mourning her dead mother during her visit to Cornwall, it is her surprising brief friendship with Mrs.Ramsay that pulls Lily out of her sadness, that is until her unexpected death which leaves Lily with an unfinished portrait painting of Mrs.Ramsay to complete. 
I felt as if I was meeting Lily for the first time. She was free spirited and carefree when painting as a part of her group while in St.Ives. The juxtaposition when she would visit Talland House and her conversations with Mrs.Ramsay were fascinating. 
The novel itself is filled with wonderful art scenes as Lily Briscoe becomes a professional artist. I really enjoyed Lily and Louis possible love story carrying through to London, World War I between 1914-1918. Nothing is predictable in Talland House; not the parental themes of death and grief, not the love story and especially not the constant friendship between Lily and Emily. Talland House is an absolutely beautifully written refreshing story of love, life and grief. 
Thank you to She Writes Press for my gorgeous paperback review copy. 
Talland House by Maggie Humm is available now online in bookstores nationwide.






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