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Book Review: Windfall by Penny Vincenzi

penny vincenzi windfall Book Review: Windfall by Penny Vincenzi

Cassia Tallow should have been a brilliant surgeon. But her disinclination to rock the boat means that instead, seven years after passing her university exams with flying colours, she spends her days managing the family home. Though Cassia loves her children, its impossible not to feel some resentment as she watches her plodding GP husband struggle to oversee even the most simple of cases at his mediocre small-town clinic. Particularly when her husband Edward refuses to let her have anything more to do with his work than act as a glorified secretary. But its the 1930s, and Cassia is fighting against social expectations all the way.

So when she finds out that shes the beneficiary of a large sum of money from her recently deceased godmother, Cassia begins to do some reflecting. No longer reliant on her husbands income, she now has myriad opportunities she can take advantage of. The changes, at first, are smalla new outfit here, a trip away therebut each one represents an exploration of independence, and Edward dislikes the very idea immensely. As Edward becomes more vocal in his disapproval of these changes, accusing her of not supporting him, or of considering him unworthy, Cassia begins to look further and further away from home for her happiness. What if she were to go back to medical school? Or to take up a new job as a practitioner? Or to move to London where the opportunities are better?

As Cassia continues to assert her independence, seeking to regain the life she thought shed be living, she further alienates Edward, and the two become estranged. But Edwards bitter, self-indulgent gripes and moans continue to affect Cassia, and though she knows at heart shes more than what hes allowed her to be, she feels a deep sense of responsibility towards him: Edward seems to need'Cassia in order to so much as get by in life. And so begins a painful back and forth of Edward attempting to poison Cassia against her friends and diminish her own dreams by labelling them selfish and dismissive of his own dreams, and of Cassias efforts to break free whilst still supporting Edward.

Its an intensely frustrating relationship to follow, but Vincenzi depicts it well. However, its in the subplots that the book begins to revel in soap opera-esque drama, and I admit to feeling a little cross-eyed after spending so many hundreds of pages trying to remember which characters were having affairs with whom (and believe me, if you started to diagram it, youd end up with enough criss-crossing lines that youd start to feel a little icky). Amongst all the affairs we also follow a few other subplots involving secretly gay husbands, fashion magazine shoots, suicides, and nervous breakdowns, and the effect is a little like eating a packet of chocolate biscuits all at once. Once youve eaten a few, you might as well'get through all of the rest, and so you do, despite the fact that your body is pleading with you to stop. Windfall'is over-the-top indulgence, and you cant help but wonder if it would be more palatable with a layer or two less chocolate fudge.

As if the love affairs arent enough, Cassia also turns detective when she learns that the godmother who is the source of her newfound wealth was actually utterly destitute. This entails several trips to France and Morocco, as well as some good old-fashioned sleuthing (which Cassia fits in between her affairs and her job at a womens health clinic), and marks the point where the book becomes rather too much. By this point, Cassia, who sets out at the beginning as the underdog, has become difficult to identify with: every page reiterates how brilliant she is, how irresistible, and when this constant effusive praise is paired with her desperately amoral actions, she begins to feel inhuman.

This lack of believability also carries through to the other characters: the woman are all astonishing high achievers, while the men, frankly, are absolutely insufferable. A little bit of balance, while, yes, perhaps detracting from the overblown TV saga feel of the novel, might have helped the characters feel a little more rounded and sympathetic. I did appreciate Vincenzis efforts to contrast the lifestyles and opportunities of the very rich and very poor during 1930s London, and her efforts to examine feminism in this context, but couldnt help but feel that these ended up a little buried beneath the high drama of the main characters.

Windfall'is one of those books that will keep you turning the pages through a long flight or a lazy day or two on the beach, and if youre a fan of larger than life characters and situations you should enjoy this one.

Rating: star Book Review: Windfall by Penny Vincenzistar Book Review: Windfall by Penny Vincenzihalfstar Book Review: Windfall by Penny Vincenziblankstar Book Review: Windfall by Penny Vincenziblankstar Book Review: Windfall by Penny Vincenzi (not bad)

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Other books by Penny Vincenzi:

almost a crime vincenzi Book Review: Windfall by Penny Vincenzino angel vincenzi Book Review: Windfall by Penny Vincenziinto temptation vincenzi Book Review: Windfall by Penny Vincenzisomething dangerous vincenzi Book Review: Windfall by Penny Vincenzi


  1. I have been meaning to try reading a Vincenzi book for a while now. They always sound interesting. Think I might try to get through some of the books I already own first though.

  2. Stephanie /

    Theyre certainly very solid and full of drama and intrigue. But I feel your pain about the TBRIm trying to work through my piles of unread books as well!

  3. I went on a Penny Vincenzi kick for a while, and Windfall was my least favorite! I havent read any others since then. Your description of eating a whole package of chocolate biscuits/cookies was much like my experience; I would just add that it was like eating an off-brand or generic treat instead of the name brand. It just wasnt the author at her best!
    If you like a family saga that spans the generations, I recommend the Spoils of Time trilogy (No Angel, Something Dangerous, and Into Temptation). They are addictive! For a standalone soap-opera type of novel, I think Almost a Crime and An Absolute Scandal are my favorites.

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks for visiting, Laurie! Hehe, what an image re: the home-brand biscuit! Youre the second person whos recommended the Spoils of Time trilogy, so Ill be sure to keep an eye out :)

  4. Must say I am trying to get into the book myself after being an avid fan of Vincenzi. I am only up to Page 110, but am continually flicking back through the pages to work out who is who and it looks like a lot more characters are going to come into the book, I am trying to find a bit of a list of who is who on the internet, so that I can put it in the front of the book and not have to keep trying to work out who is who.