Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes

I've read quite a few of Jojo Moyes' novels and haven't been disappointed in any of them. I have to say, however, The Peacock Emporium fell a bit flat for me. It was a novel I've had on my shelf for about a year, and after clearing off my bookcases, I found it again and added it to my summer reading list. But darn it all, it was a struggle to read and I'm still scratching my head over it after finishing it late tonight. 

Reading the back cover, I thought this would be about a delightful young woman running a shop and dealing with a mother who is a bit overbearing. The delightful young woman would find her way by being a successful shop owner, and eventually connect with her mother. That's what I got out of reading the back cover. 

Oh heck no, I was waaaay off. Honestly, I spent a lot of my time a bit confused as to where this plot was going. It seemed to be a jumble, as if the author couldn't decide which set of characters to concentrate on, so she tried to fit them all in. It didn't work for me. 

The novel starts with with Vivi and Douglas in 1963 going to a big fancy party in the English countryside. Vivi is in love with Douglas, who remains oblivious. At the party, Douglas falls for Athene Forster, who is wildly beautiful, troubled, and a bit out of control. Vivi is devastated, of course. Then the story swings to 35 years later--and Suzanne Peacock. Suzanne and her husband Neil have left London and moved back to Suzanne's hometown due to some bad financial mistakes Neil made--they are getting back on their feet very slowly. Suzanne is gorgeous and a bit spoiled. She's not interested in visiting her parents, who own a family estate outside of town. And guess who her parents are? Yep--Vivi and Douglas. 

Suzanne is the kind of character who doesn't make you feel warm fuzzies at all. She's completely lost, resentful of everything, and decides to open a small shop in town to help her pass the time. The Peacock Emporium is a bit of a mishmash of a coffee shop and a store that sells higher end bits and bobs. Suzanne just hangs out there, and meets Jessie, a young mother who boldly decides to work part-time at the shop and show Suzanne how to engage with the public. Jessie and Suzanne become friends, and all seems to be going well. 

However, there's a bit of a mystery involving Suzanne and her family. Suzanne is unhappy in her marriage, and not sure how to get out of it. And there's a new man in town from Argentina who is growing on Suzanne's heart and mind. 

Tragedy happens and that was the one thing I didn't see coming. Not at all. Not sure why; maybe to move the plot forward? I'm not sure. It definitely took the wind out of my reading. I had to put the book down for a week before I could return to it. I finally finished it today. 

I don't know what to tell you about this novel. It seems like it was all over the place, and I wasn't sure what the heck I was reading-was it Suzanne's story, was it Jessies? Was it Vivi and Douglas' story, or was it Athene's? I spent a lot of time trying to understand what exactly was going on, and not enough was going on to keep me glued to the pages. This novel was written in 2004, and released in the U.S. in 2019. So I think it is one of Jojo Moyes' earlier novels. Darn it all, I was all set for a great story, but this one just wasn't it. 

Rating: 2/6 for a disjointed tale of one woman's journey to understanding her place in her family, and finding happiness for herself. I usually don't have any trouble following dual storylines involving different decades, but this one jumped all over and I couldn't piece it all together very easily. I'll still read Jojo Moyes because she is quite good, but this one, an earlier novel, definitely wasn't a favorite of mine. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio. 

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