Reviewed by Shamsun Nahar
‘It saddens me to speak of it, but one can only hope for his swift downfall, as it is clear he will not improve. I am greatly moved by this Mary, and do not think me as dimwitted as to let it continue forever, we will let it run its course but in time we must decide the action to be taken ourselves.’
Beyond Kin is Elizabeth Ward’s debut novel and was released just in November 2017 and with great reception. It is set against the backdrop of a lavish early nineteenth century. The Brentford children are rocked to the core by the loss of their mother and find themselves hurled into the unknown world of adulthood, in which they must quickly learn etiquette and adopt their roles in society. With a father that is half way across the world, their lives become irreversibly woven with those of the Rathbourne’s, with whom they are brought up. What begins a simple and sweet childhood is short lived and very quickly turns dark with deceitful affairs, betrayal and shame. We follow the characters through love and aching, to the very mercy of death.
Featuring lordly parties that I imagined only Gatsby himself capable of hosting, Beyond Kin possesses an air of class and romance; a fleeting exchange quickly becomes a grand affair, and a touch – eternity. With beautiful descriptions of the clothing, setting and era, one is transported to all aspects of Regency life, from the picturesque gardens and houses to the servant quarters. Not a detail is missed in recounting the time, attitudes or culture, all of which are eloquently narrated.
Penned in a style that mirrors that of Jane Austen’s, it is written in a formal yet light-hearted fashion (or how one imagines the Queen to speak to Prince Harry over tea!). Each personality is captivating and you quickly fall in love with them, or some of them, at least, whilst learning to hate others, with a hatred that only grows as the story unfolds – something only a distinguished writer is able to achieve. When you near the end, there awaits you a complete surprise, one that satisfied my stirring heart – but that may just be the petulance in me.
This is a fine debut by Ward and is nothing short of a page-turner. It will be loved by anyone looking for a new Regency novel (or just a good read)!
Review by Shamsun Nahar from the Baker’s Dozen