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Book Review: The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy

legacy of eden nelle davy Book Review: The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy

Meredith Pancetti adheres to the idea of a rose by any other name. Born into the tumultuous Hathaway clan, an immensely wealthy farming family from Iowa, Meredith was privy to all manner of familial dysfunction as a child, and now, with both parents dead and the few remaining members of her family scattered about the country in their own efforts to escape, Meredith has become someone else entirely, living in a tiny New York apartment and going by a name that has no outward connections to the Hathaway estate. Even her childhood nickname is anathema now.

But a rose is always a rose, and despite Merediths efforts to create a new life for herself, her past will always be there. And when Meredith receives a telephone call telling her that her grandmother, Lavinia Hathaway, has died and that Meredith and her estranged sisters must return to the family estate one final time before it is sold.

As the book progresses, we learn just how momentous the sale of Aurelia truly is: Hathaway matriarch Lavinia ushered in newfound prosperity and respect for the family when she transformed the estate from a humble one on a large tract of land to one featuring a Southern plantation-reminiscent mansion that became a beacon of achievement and good-fortune to all around. Over the years, Aurelia came to house almost the entire Hathaway family, a careful move on Machiavellian Lavinias part to ensure that her nearest and dearest were able to be kept under her control.

The sale of Aurelia, then, highlights the decline and fall of this (non-Roman) empire in several ways. First, that despite Lavinias efforts, the family relations are so strained that theres no one willing to take it over upon her death, and second, that despite once being a marker of success and prosperousness, Aurelia is being sold to help cover the estates mounting debts.

As might be obvious by now, though Meredith is ostensibly the protagonist, shes actually notshes more a framing device than anything. The Legacy of Eden'is not so much the story of Meredith as it is that of Lavinia, and by extension the Aurealia she created. And although the scenes with Meredith to be honest seem a little extraneousthis story is of the past, not of the presentLavinia is certainly worth the page space. Cunning, manipulative and amoral, she could easily have descended from the ranks of the Borgias or the Medici (and indeed, perhaps this is why Meredith has ended up with an Italian surname?). She shrewdly pits people against each other in order to achieve her own ends, and doesnt hesitate to facilitate the destruction of others lives in order to feed a personal grudge or to guide her family in the direction that she wants it to go. But at the same time, shes capable of turning a blind eye or relying on inaction to achieve the same, and its in these cases that the outcomes can be especially dire.

Whether its due to the constant manipulative efforts of Lavinia, the pressures of being a Hathaway and therefore needing to achieve, or the fact that only broken souls seem to be drawn to the family, but Aurelia becomes a place where self-destruction and turmoil is centred and 'magnified. Its insular nature means that the pain of the individuals within has nowhere else to go, and instead becomes compounded as it effects the others who are present. Alcoholism, depression, and a propensity toward both physical and sexual violence seem to slink through the family like a disease and with nothing to temper them, become only worse over time.

The most compelling elements of the book are easily those to do with Lavinias calculated machinations and the concept of Aurelia itself, and its these that carry the book. Some of the other aspects of the narrative fall short, however: all the darkness and grimness of the Hathaways can feel repetitive, with certain character traits and actions played out over generations, for example. Davy also tends towards being cryptic, and there are times, particularly the scenes set in the present between Meredith and her estranged sisters, when things feel less mysterious than they do deliberately obscured. The writing is at times uneven, too, with Merediths voice awkwardly juxtaposed against the more traditional narrative voice of Lavinias story. This is particularly noticeable when there are a number of short scenes in a row.

Still,'The Legacy of Eden'has the feel of a multigenerational epic without being an epicI do wonder whether some of the choppiness might have been ironed out had this book been a thing of vast proportions rather than the slim volume that it isand although it may not be anything especially new on this front, its worth reading for the astonishing viciousness of Lavinia Hathaway alone.

Rating: star Book Review: The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davystar Book Review: The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davystar Book Review: The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davyblankstar Book Review: The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davyblankstar Book Review: The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy (good)

With thanks to Meryl L Moss Media Relations for the review copy

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  1. Mrs.Batista /

    I cant wait to have the copy of this book, What a beautiful review Thanks!

  2. Hi Stephanie I just thought Id stop by and read your review, yesterday my site was the days stop in the Scavenger Hunt.

    Really enjoyed your review its always interesting to read other views on the same book.

  3. Stephanie /

    Hi Clare,

    Thanks so much for stopping by to read my review. :) Ill pop by your site to say hello when I get a moment.