Summer reads

The Ashford Affair
Lauren Willig ’99
St. Martin Press, $24.99
Reviewed by Peggy Edersheim Kalb ’86

When I was nearing the end of Lauren Willig’s novel The Ashford Affair, my daughter had to remind me that it was time for her to go to bed. It’s that kind of book.

Willig deftly maneuvers her storyline between the 1920s (England and Africa) and the late twentieth century (New York City). The book begins in 1926, when Addie, in her twenties and recently engaged, travels from England to Africa to visit her married cousin, Bea. Addie, orphaned young, had grown up as the unwelcome relative in Bea’s grand, cold family home—the Ashford of the title. The girls formed a sisterly attachment, but the relationship was eventually complicated by the entrance of a young man deeply traumatized by World War I.

Switch to 1990s New York, where we meet Clemmie, Addie’s granddaughter, an overworked, overanxious thirty-something lawyer, on her way to Addie’s 99th birthday party. Clemmie’s subsequent search for the truth about her respectable grandmother’s past puts her on the road to self-discovery.

The Ashford Affair contains familiar tropes, but Willig writes with such care and imagination that the novel flies above cliché, taking readers on a captivating journey.

Peggy Edersheim Kalb ’86 is the acting senior editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine.

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