Daisy Goodwin’s novel sparkles with glamour, romance and secrets.
Following the story of Cora Cash, a wealthy American heiress whose mother is determined to get her married into the world of the English aristocracy, My Last Duchess is a lavish and intriguing novel in which all the characters are as flawed as each other.
Set at the turn of the 20th century, My Last Duchess vividly captures Cora’s life as she adapts to life in England and her whirlwind romance and marriage to the brooding and at times mysterious Duke of Wareham, who has secrets of his own that could potentially damage her own happiness. It highlights the rigidness of society at that time as well as its gossipy and sharp witted edge.
However, it has to be said that as central characters go, Cora isn’t particularly likeable – at least at first. She is spoilt and used to getting her own way, however as the story develops and unfolds, Goodwin cleverly reveals her insecurities as she tries to get used to living in a different country and essentially world that she has no understanding of. In particular, her barbed conversations with her mother-in-law, the Double Duchess, who has everyone on her side including the servants who disobey Cora at every turn.
Every detail with regards to what each character is wearing is gorgeously described, but it is difficult not to think that perhaps this close attention to detail distracts from the story, making the story feel rushed at the end as the reason for the Duke’s changeable behaviour is revealed.
Goodwin writes with great feeling throughout, as well as great depth and understanding for each characters perspective of themselves and of each other. It is this attention to the characters that keeps the book compelling to read, particularly when Cora and her maid Berth’s stories become increasingly entangled.
For those who enjoy historical fiction, there is much to be enjoyed here – even if initially all of the characters are in their own way selfish, stick with it as the story that unfolds makes it worth continuing with.
By Emma Clarendon
My Last Duchess is available to buy now.