Lyndon Wilder, eldest son and heir of Lady and Lord Charles Wilder, has been killed in action during the Napoleonic wars. The grieving has only begun when Anna Arbuthnot arrives at Ridley to play governess to Lyndon’s 9-year-old daughter, Lottie. Despite the fact that Lottie barely knew her father, strict rules of mourning are to be applied. Lady Charles seems to be the driving force behind this excessive display of grief. For to her eyes, Lyndon was an angel and the very best of sons.
Major Thomas Wilder, the other son, is forced to give up the life he loves as an artillery soldier and return to Ridley at his father’s request. What he finds is an estate on the verge of ruin, his parents prematurely aged, and a little girl thoroughly neglected and uneducated. His mother is deeply disappointed in his return, for Thomas can never be but the poorest substitute for Lyndon. Nevertheless, Thomas is a dutiful man and promptly begins the work of rebuilding the estate and caring for his ailing father.
Thomas’ most difficult challenge, though, is preserving the illusion of Lyndon’s great character for his mother. For over the course of the novel, a clearer vision of Lyndon comes to light and we find that he isn’t anything like the kind of man his mother envisions. Furthermore, Lyndon’s actions in life continue, after his death, to have consequences, sometimes dire ones, which Thomas and his family must pay.
First I have to say, I don’t know how this book got published. It’s written in true third person omniscient which seems to be completely out of fashion these days. It’s full of historic world-building details and references. The author doesn’t impose modern views on gender roles anachronistically on the early 19th century characters–something many authors do. The main characters have, as their primary motivations, duty and honor, two virtues that aren’t necessarily in vogue in our modern society…or even fully understood by the vast majority. Yes, I most definitely am confused as to how this book got published, but I’m very glad that it did. I found I couldn’t put it down.
Of course, Jane Austen has retained popularity through the centuries. And Downton Abbey has been a wild success. So perhaps this book has an audience after all. Not only is the setting historic, but the writing style feels very vintage as well. It’s a smooth read with subtle, but compelling drama. There’s a quaint, but heartwarming romance that develops later in the novel. All of the characters are multi-dimensional, even the side ones–I’m thinking particularly of Captain Allington, a relatively unimportant side character who appears toward the end of the book. In our brief acquaintance with him we’re given enough detail to make him a favorite character. I think he deserves his own novel, in fact.
Overall, I absolutely loved Death of Lyndon Wilder and the Consequences Thereof. The world was so vivid I found it difficult to leave. The overall impression of the mood has lingered with me such that I’m a bit melancholy in the aftermath, sad to put the book aside. If you enjoy historical fiction or are a die hard Jane Austen fan, this book is most definitely for you.
A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Constable & Robinson Ltd. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.