Strengths: Great characters and a few shocking twists in the tale of the Morlands.
Weaknesses: Covers more years than the previous books set in WWI.
Why I read it: I’ve been reading this series since 2006.
Setting: England, America, Europe
Rating: 9 out of 10
If you liked this, try: watching Downton Abbey or reading more books in the series.
Thirty three books into the series and the Morlands have just been through the War to End All Wars (soon to be followed by World War II). This is a saga, but one that is worth the time and effort (in my case, more effort was expended in obtaining the books than reading them! They are quite difficult to purchase in Australia). The Dancing Years covers a longer time period than the WWI books, covering from 1919 until 1925 (the war books covered one year each).
Returning to Morland Place is as much a welcome home for the reader as for the Morland family. We are reunited with favourite characters, such as Bertie and Jessie, Jack and Helen and of course Teddy. Polly, as she grows into a young lady, has a stronger storyline than previous books and Emma also plays a leading role. The book covers the years that I had always thought were happy – post-war, into the 1920s, glamour and fun with a more realistic note. It was an eye-opener to read about the state of the English economy and how so many soldiers were unemployed (Jack being one of them) and the unsettled feeling that remained. Of course, there is Emma’s set – the Bright Young Things who dance and dance, mainly to hide the lurking shadows of the war. Cynthia Harrod-Eagles is more daring in this novel, with some very unexpected twists unfolding. Characters will face tragedy (not for the first time), happiness (but suspicion from the point of view of others) and finally, happiness. I am really interested to see what happens in #34 with the Depression approaching.
The question that I should probably answer to this book is ‘can you read this as a stand-alone or must it be read as part of a series?’ I’ve thought quite deeply about this. I think it will make a lot more sense if it is read as part of the series (starting from the WWI books at least) but you could read it as a stand-alone. The characters are warm and engaging and in these internet days, you could more than likely Google any missing strands.