At Home with the Templetons

Monica McInerney
Macmillan, €18.45

IMAGINE living in a stately home. It sounds exciting, but when the Templeton family are transported from England to the house they’d inherited in Australia, there’s little fun involved.

The father, Henry, persuades his children to dress in traditional clothes to give paying visitors the grand tour, and they have to muck in with the cleaning and tidying too.

They’re considered strange by all the locals; nobody is keen to mix with them. And to make matters worse, their aunt Hope, an alcoholic, has a habit of spoiling any moments of family happiness. The older girls, Charlotte and Audrey, get some solace from attending boarding school, but Gracie and the tearaway Spenser lead an isolated existence. Until, that is, their neighbour, a young widow called Nina, and her son Tom start to form links with the family.

Nina, though, is wary of the Templetons. She fears Tom’s friendship with them will increase her own isolation. But when the family suddenly decamp back to England, it’s Nina who becomes caretaker.

This door-stopper of a family saga skirts over the next few years, using letters between the families to keep us up to speed until Tom and Gracie are reunited. It covers their burgeoning relationship and a tragedy that forces the two families apart again. Can there possibly be a resolution?

A huge seller in Australia, McInerney is gaining a reputation here too. There’s an old fashioned feel to her storytelling, reminiscent of Rosamund Pilcher, but it’s a less cosy read. There’s plenty of humour, but it’s difficult for the reader to warm to the Templeton clan, apart from the gentle Gracie.

This book will appeal to readers who prefer a saga to more contemporary women’s fiction. McInerney has a good way with words and a humorous touch. But it would have been a much better book at two-thirds of its length.


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