It takes some gumption for an Anglo-Indian woman to pack herself up, with her child, and travel thousands of miles from Himalayan India to Scotland. It takes even more gumption for that same woman to travel to rural Scotland with the express purpose of inserting herself in the middle of a tricky inheritance situation. It’s not hard to see that Cecily Pick is just that kind of woman. In the opening pages of Beatrice Colin’s The Glass House, we can see the Cecily is the kind of woman to breeze past any obstructions or objections by either not seeing them or just by refusing to argue.
Cecily and her daughter Kitty arrive at Balmarra, the estate belonging to her husband’s family, shortly after The Glass House begins. Cecily’s plan is to use her husband’s inheritance (the patriarch has recently died) to fund that husband’s botanical explorations back in India and her daughter’s education. We know before Cecily meets her in-laws for the first time (yikes!) that this plan will involve selling Balmarra and its enormous glass greenhouse out from under them. I was prepared to like Cecily. It wasn’t easy to be an Anglo-Indian in 1912 (or at any time, probably), but her grand scheme made me pull back. All of a sudden, Cecily was one of the grasping relatives that come out of the woodwork for will readings that I’ve seen in fiction. The difference this time is that we get Cecily’s perspective in addition to the point of view of the relative who’s about to have their life turned upside down.
I was expecting a lot more turmoil from the opening of The Glass House, considering what Cecily is up to. Instead, Cecily keeps her cards close to her vest when she finds her retiring in-laws. A large part of the story is told by one of them, Cecily’s sister-in-law Antonia. Antonia is the kind of person who life has passed by—a direct contrast to the take-charge Cecily. So instead of a bitter conflict about financial inheritance, The Glass House is a story about emotional inheritances because of the few things the women have in common is that they grew up with men who told them how they had to be because they were daughters instead of sons.
The Glass House is a solid story, recommended for readers who like family dramas set in atmospheric country manor house. The surprise ending is a wonderful conclusion to a story that had me guessing more than once. The only thing that could make reading The Glass House better would be a large mug of Darjeeling to accompany it.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.