Epiphany and Martha are sisters with a stage mediumship act in Edwardian London. When they are asked to give a private spiritualist reading at the home of Lady Adelia Lyward to find out the truth about her brother’s death, Martha must face up to her past. For two years ago, her affair with Lord Rafe Lyward ended in pregnant disgrace, and her attempted suicide in the River Thames. But there is more at stake than Martha’s anonymous return, for Epiphany bears the burden of restoring the equilibrium, not just to the Lywards but to her sister and ultimately to herself.
Equilibrium has been awarded the Awesome Indies Seal of Approval, and is a recommended read by the Historical Novel Society.
Star rating – ★★★★☆ Movie Potential – ★★★★☆
Plot – interesting, sticky in parts, but overall good.
Characters – very varied and true to the historic period.
Ease of reading – moderate. Some parts were difficult to get through.
Cover – ✔ Suitable Title – ✔
Would I read it again – Probably not. Just because it’s so long.
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **
First off, let me say that it took me a really, really long time to read this book. May to October. That was for a few reasons. Mostly, I read Chapter 1 and it was so super, really, exceptionally long that I was afraid Chapter 2 would be the same, so I was hesitant to pick it back up again. I had a few health problems at this time, that made reading and taking in the words difficult, so I didn’t want to have to read a chapter that was the equivalent to a short story.
I like to read each chapter in one sitting, but Chapter 1 made this feel impossible. Why? Because Chapter 1 was 14% of the book. 778 of 5601 locations on my Kindle (no idea what that translates to in pages, but it’s a lot.) Going by Amazon’s claim of 355 pages, I’d say that makes Chapter 1 about 49 pages. I’ve read short stories that aren’t that long, so it really did put me off a little.
As for the story – it was interesting. I was drawn in by the first few pages, but the other big problem I faced, which made reading difficult, was that there are some superbly long run on sentences. And I don’t just mean that go on for a few lines. More than one of them went on for half a page! That makes following the thread of the sentence, for me, nearly impossible. When I saw these coming, I’ll admit that I skimmed a lot.
However, I don’t feel like I missed anything, by bypassing or skimming these sentences. They were mostly description of the era, streets, locations, buildings, people that didn’t really interest me or seem all that important to the story. I can understand that they make the book historically accurate, but I don’t need them to enjoy the story. And since I have no real knowledge of the life and times of this era, in the detail that the author has, I don’t know if what they’re telling me is accurate. I gather, from the amount of detail they go into, that they are, but I kind of couldn’t care less about it. I’m all about the story, not the historical elements.
I do think, however, that the second half of the novel was far better than the first. I really struggled with the first 45% and couldn’t connect with the characters until after that point. It felt like the first 45% was the build up, to what happened later and then in the second half, everything happened at once. I liked the faster pace and the way the story flowed in the second half, much better than the first half.
Sometimes it was difficult to remember who Epiphany, Martha, Mrs Hearn and Miss Fortune were, as characters and to each other, because it flitted between identities so often. One minute Epiphany was called by her name, then it was Miss Fortune and similarly with Martha and Mrs Hearn. It was a little confusing.
I did enjoy the uncertain romances between Martha and Olivas, and Epiphany and Josiah. They were genuine and heartfelt, but I also knew that Olivas knew, because he seemed so unruffled by everything that was going on around him, and much more persistent after he was alone with Epiphany. Like he’d made up his mind about Martha.
I couldn’t really connect with Martha or Epiphany on the same level that I could with Adelia. Which is odd, because the book begins with Martha and Epiphany in a tough spot, that should really have tugged at my heart strings. But, I found Martha kind of selfish and stubborn through the entire book, while Epiphany was flighty and indecisive. It seemed like Epiphany always knew what was going on, like she was two steps ahead of everyone else, but instead of just spitting it out and getting it over with, she kept everyone hanging. It felt a little like she was used to drag the story out long enough for all the other characters to fill in their stories.
There comes another issue: there were a lot of characters to keep up with. Lots of friends of Adelia, lots of Mrs this and Mrs that, sometimes having similar sounding or spelled last names that made it hard to keep track of who was who. Sometimes Mrs Whoever was then called by a first name, when we had Adelia’s POV. She knew who she was talking about, as did the author, but I’m afraid I couldn’t keep up.
I really connected with Adelia, though I can’t exactly say why. She was strong, but didn’t think much of herself most of the time, and she was faced with a really difficult life, that was all too common back then. Her husband had done a 180º change, since they got married and she was left picking up the pieces of a life that she no longer recognised as her own. With players that she hadn’t wanted or known were playing the same game.
I also, oddly enough, connected with Rafe. I really felt for him. I sensed, really early on, that he was a troubled soul with a massive secret that was just waiting to be exposed. I always knew that he had used Martha as a filled for someone, to drown himself in, and that she never really loved him. Which, you wouldn’t really have known from the way she acted. She was like a screaming banshee, scorned woman half the time, whenever he came into it. It made her erratic and unlikeable, for me, getting other people in trouble and making assumptions about them, from what she saw at a distance. To me, Martha used Rafe as much as he used her and poor Adelia was stuck in the middle. Yet, Adelia stayed strong while everyone around her fell apart.
I can’t believe that Flora knew such a secret about Rafe and never told anyone. It seems odd, though it certainly explains his drinking. Still, she had the cheek to live in his house, under his nose, rubbing it in. It’s no wonder he ended up the way he did. And, to be fair, I don’t think he had the slightest clue that none of the maids were willing to be with him. I’m sure it was Graves who told him they were more than happy to be there. It doesn’t excuse what he did, but I think it is an explanation that fits better with his personality.
Flora was the biggest surprise, for me. I always knew the secret about Rafe and Dacre, since it felt a little obvious and there were enough hints in the book to convince me I was right. Flora was the one that caught me off guard and made sense of everything else.
I really enjoyed the ending, though I would have liked to know more about whether Adelia actually divorced Rafe or not, and whether he ever told her of the child he had with Martha, or that he’d turned her away.
I changed my mind, quite a lot, throughout the story, about who I liked and who I would trust in that situation, which was good. I also really enjoyed the Seances, which were the highlight of the story, for me. I think a good chunk of the description could have been taken out, making it easier to read, and faster paced, but I do understand the historic integrity of it, so I didn’t mind skimming it. It just made it longer to read. I really would have liked some of the run-on sentences to be shorter, though. If they’d been cut, reworded or changed to make them not as long, then I probably would have finished this book a lot quicker.
I did tear up at the end, when Martha and Epiphany had their scene. I also teared up a few times, for Adelia. Especially the scene with Rafe drunk out his mind, when she finally confronts him about how she feels. I would have liked to see more of them, though, rather than spending our time with Martha, who had no idea where Epiphany was. I feel that was wasted time, since the author had already told us where she was. Maybe if we’d been kept out of the loop and Epiphany had just disappeared, it would have felt different, but it seemed obvious.
Overall, I enjoyed the mystery, the intrigue and the relationships explored throughout the book, so it’s a solid 4 stars from me. I can look past the difficulties with the sentence structure, to see the value of the story within and appreciate that the author made me feel very strongly about all the characters and their situations. Love or hate, as long as I feel for them, then it’s a job well done.
Evie Woolmore is a conjuress of magical realism. Her novels infuse historical settings with an otherworldly quality. Their evocative atmospheres blur boundaries between the real and the imaginary, or whatever passes for real and imaginary…
An experienced writer and editor, Evie Woolmore has been writing fiction and non-fiction for twenty years. Having written books for other people, she also finds time to write books for herself. She has lived here, there and everywhere, but finds that imagination travels well. She enjoys publishing independently, and focuses her contribution to the indie community through reviewing other indie books, particularly those in a similar genre to her own.
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