All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Birthright by Fiona Lowe

on April 3, 2018

Birthright
Fiona Lowe
Harlequin AUS
2018, 473p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Australian author Fiona Lowe returns with a juicy family saga, set against the backdrop of Victoria’s high country, about unforgettable characters tangled together by a wealthy inheritance, secrets and betrayal.

Is an inheritance a privilege or a right?

Does it show love? Margaret, the matriarch of the wealthy Jamieson family, has always been as tight-fisted with the family money as she is with her affection. Her eldest daughter, Sarah, is successful in her own right as a wife, mother and part owner of a gourmet food empire. But it’s not enough to impress her mother. Always in the shadow cast by the golden glow of her younger brother, Sarah feels compelled to meet Margaret’s every demand to earn her love.

Does it give security? After a poverty-stricken childhood, Anita has claimed the social status she’s worked so hard to achieve by marrying Cameron Jamieson. Although they have a comfortable life, she’s never able to fully relax, fearing everything could change in a heartbeat.

Or does it mean freedom? Ellie, the youngest, has lived a nomadic and — according to her siblings — a selfish life, leaving them to care for their ageing mother. For her, freedom means staying far away from the strings attached to her inheritance, but she needs to consider her young son’s future as well.

As their mother’s health deteriorates, will long-held secrets and childhood rivalries smash this family into pieces?

An addictive and page-turning story of the relationships between siblings and of deceit, betrayal and revenge.

This book actually raises a few interesting questions. Are we entitled to all the things our parents have worked for and accumulated, simply because they are our parents? Should people be able to choose what they leave to people and in what proportions? If you leave your fortune to your children, should you divide it equally? Or should you take into account the fact that some might be wealthier than others and need your assets, less, in a way?

Margaret is the formidable matriarch of a wealthy family – country aristocracy. She lives in a very large house and has various investments which have made her more than comfortable. Her health is deteriorating rapidly and her three children are faced with not only questions over how to manage her ailing health but with how the family assets will be divided. Some more than others, are determined to get their fair share….or more than their fair share.

Now a lot of people say you should never talk about money – and in fact one of Margaret’s children is reluctant to ask about or look at the will, because that breaches her privacy. I think for the most part there’s an understanding in a family that anything in terms of assets or money will be left equally to any children. Looking at the will isn’t necessary or something that even crosses some people’s mind until it’s necessary – but what if you felt like you were being left out or another sibling or person was favoured? Would you want to look then? Would you feel entitled to an equal share? Would you be willing to contest a will if you felt you’d been treated unfavourably? It’s a long messy process complicated by grief and feelings of anger and hurt.

There’s a lot of squabbling in this book. The three siblings (oldest Sarah, middle and only son Cameron and the youngest, free spirited Ellie) are constantly fighting like my two children, bickering back and forth about the most trivial of matters, even before anything complicated begins. Margaret it seems, is a narcissist who has raised her children to regularly compete for her love, frequently withholding it for various ridiculous reasons and her three children have paid the price of her vicious character in various ways. Sarah is a doormat, desperate for her mother’s approval or love, never receiving it no matter how far backward she bends for her. Cameron is grasping and spoiled, raised to believe that he’s perfect – the quintessential country heir. He’s selfish and scheming, jealous of Sarah and her husband’s success with their goat’s cheese and bitterly scathing of Ellie. He’s condescending and shitty to his wife and believes that the world owes him. Only Ellie was a character I had any real interest in and sympathy for. Her childhood was by far the worst and only the prospect of the most perfect job had brought her anywhere near her childhood home. Ellie tries to distance herself from her mother as much as possible, much to the chagrin of Sarah, who feels as though Ellie should assume some of the responsibility now that Margaret is becoming forgetful. Personally, I didn’t blame Ellie for not wanting much to do with any of them, coming to only the family dinners she couldn’t get out of for the sake of her young son to spend some time with his cousins. Sarah is sanctimonious and Cameron sneering.

As well as the stress with Margaret, most of the siblings have other things going on in their lives. Sarah’s husband is distant and soon she discovers the reason. Cameron’s wife Anita is desperate for security and although she’s willing to contribute, she’s unaware of the lengths her husband will go to in order to secure what he wants. And Ellie is facing being homeless with her young son and questioning a burgeoning friendship. There’s quite a lot of story in this book and it makes for an engrossing, easy read. Despite the fact that this is quite a chunky book at almost 500p, I read it in a day. I did feel that the beginning was a tiny bit slow and the ending felt a bit rushed – some of the really interesting stuff happened off page and I would’ve liked that to have been included because it felt a bit important after a long lead up.

I don’t have any of the answers to the questions this book poses really (every family situation will be different and I only know how it is in my family and how I feel about it) but I have to say I struggled with Margaret as a character and her attitude towards her children and towards others. She was a very difficult person to like – the book talks a lot about how she was charismatic and seemed to be well liked within the community but I mostly saw her interacting with her own children and her remarks were acerbic and bitter. I have no trouble believing how much she would’ve probably enjoyed the drama and hurt feelings that would result from an uneven distribution of wealth. It was interesting that so many women in this novel forged a strong connection as a result of one woman who had spurned all such connections with other women. Perhaps that was the best outcome from so much negativity.

I enjoyed this story but the characters (I really only liked Ellie and her love interest) made it difficult to connect with them for a large portion of the book and made it seem like a pack of spoiled children fighting over lollies. It was just enough to make this a book I liked but ultimately, didn’t absolutely love.

7/10

Book #57 of 2018

 


4 responses to “Review: Birthright by Fiona Lowe

  1. alexandrareads says:

    OH MY GOD YOU HAVE READ SO MANY BOOKS. I am on my like 30th so far behind my goal. Anyways, lovely review and I can’t wait to see what else you have to say. Have a lovely day 🙂

  2. Marg says:

    I went to listen to Fiona Lowe talk and it was interesting to listen to her. When I was getting my book signed she said something along the lines of hoping that I was a nicer Margaret than the one in the book. I may have implied that it depended on the day of the week!!

    • Yeah I’m sorry I missed that talk, just was a bit hard to organise.

      You’d have to go a long way and be having a very bad day to be worse than the Margaret in the novel lol.

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