Published by Berkley
Publication date: July 2nd 2013
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rutherford Park is the estate of the Cavendish family and like any good British estate, it is rife with intrigue and drama. Elizabeth Cooke captures all the details, upstairs and downstairs, in her new novel Rutherford Park, the story of the Cavendish family, on the cusp of World War I. Despite the many changes in the world around them, the English aristocracy continues to live with its stiff formality, clearly delineated classes, and unspoken codes of behavior. At the same time, so do their staff, minding their places and supporting a structure even when it does not support them.
Lady Octavia comes to Rutherford as a nineteen-year-old bride, marrying the thirty-nine-year-old William. He has the title, she has the money. She dutifully produces an heir and two charming daughters and they settle into a pro forma marriage of separate bedrooms and keeping up appearances. It is only a series of unforeseen events that leads her to feel she has been shortchanged and that although she has the luxury of sable-lined robes she has no life. Their son Harry dallies with a housemaid with not-unpredictable results but denies his paternity even after the maid in question dies giving birth. This is just one of the secrets that can potentially tarnish the Cavendish reputation. There are others that will (literally) come back to wreak havoc on their carefully staged lives.
That was what human beings were taken down by, he thought, not giant chaos but trivial mistakes. Wrong turns, careless inattention, stray words, fleeting looks. Worlds turned on such things: small things overlooked.
Rutherford Park will work for anyone going through Downton Abbey withdrawal. It encompasses all the unspoken rules that dictated every bit of English aristocratic behavior in the early 1900s while at the same time exposing the unsightly reality that often lay beneath. Cooke manages it all with an adept hand and an eye toward entertainment. She provides readers with a backdrop to witness not only the bad behavior of her characters, but the judgment that inevitably follows, leaving those who like their stories neatly wrapped up feeling satisfied.
And that while he had been out that afternoon—sometimes perhaps when he had been standing on the bridge idly watching the world go by—his marriage had fallen irretrievably to pieces.