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The Glittering Hour


The Glittering Hour

For Selina Lennox, the parties never stop. It’s 1925, and she’s one of the brightest of the Bright Young Things. Life is a seemingly endless succession of cocktails, costume parties and wild treasure hunts through nighttime London. With everyone in England still reeling from the devastation of the First World War, she and her stylish, aristocratic friends are determined to live life to the fullest, “never mind about rules and respectability.” If their parents’ lecture and the tabloids splash their exploits all over the front page, well, that’s proof they’re doing something right.

Young, beautiful and reckless, Selina is determined to make the most of the glittering hour --- “that glorious, fleeting state at the start of the evening…when the first swiftly downed cocktail drove away the demons; when her blood was warm and her limbs loose and everything shimmered with promise.” But wild abandon comes at a price, as she learns in this evocative historical romance from Iona Grey.

"...[an] evocative historical romance... THE GLITTERING HOUR excels at bringing the world of 1920s London to life..."

Alternating between the heady days of 1925 and the more sober environment of 1936 (when the fascists are gaining a toehold in Britain, and another war looms on the horizon), THE GLITTERING HOUR sees Selina evolve from flighty socialite to a woman ready to take stock of her past. A decade after her wayward youth, she’s married, with a bright, creative nine-year-old daughter named Alice, who has been left in the care of Selina’s stern, withholding mother while her parents travel to Burma on business. To entertain Alice while she’s trapped at the chilly and crumbling Blackwood Hall, Selina has cooked up an elaborate treasure hunt, with clues sent via letter (and some help from devoted family servant Polly), that also tells the story of her life before her marriage.

Naturally, there are secrets that will be revealed --- the biggest of which is obvious to everyone but Alice herself. As a 22-year-old, one of Selina’s late-night escapades led to a chance meeting with a poor artist named Lawrence Weston. Though they come from different worlds, Selina and Lawrence fall in love. But after a whirlwind summer romance, a combination of social pressure and personal tragedy force Selina to make a heartbreaking choice.

Grey’s novel hits familiar beats --- a penniless but handsome hero; a rich but dull suitor who is the more socially acceptable choice of a husband; an upper-crust English family slipping into insolvency (Selina’s father is forced to sell a Canaletto to help pay for his other daughter’s wedding, and her clothes are cleverly reworked castoffs). But while the tear-jerking story is a touch predictable, THE GLITTERING HOUR excels at bringing the world of 1920s London to life, with its society girls who carelessly drag the silky fur cuffs of their couture coats through a Tarte Parisienne and lower-class apartment vestibules with “scuffed dark green Lincrusta” and sad aspidistras.

Everyone, rich and poor, is haunted by the war, “an obscenity that the younger people were keen to forget and the older ones doomed to remember.” And it is lingering trauma born of the conflict that pushes Selina to make a fateful decision as she opts to let logic rather than love rule her life, even though Lawrence warns her that she’s “exchanging one gilded cage for another.” But for Selina, it’s a choice between the dangerous (but thrilling) unknown and the safely predictable.

Ultimately, THE GLITTERING HOUR is a book about reckoning with the past and the way our choices reverberate out through the years. Selina’s frantic youthful exploits are an attempt to push away the pain of losing her brother in the war, but heartbreak and loss are parts of life that can’t be avoided, as she eventually learns. The glittering hour can’t last forever.

Reviewed by Megan Elliott on December 13, 2019

The Glittering Hour
by Iona Grey

  • Publication Date: December 10, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250066794
  • ISBN-13: 9781250066794