This is the first book in the trilogy of the Lytton family, and this part centres on Lady Celia Lytton throughout her marriage to Oliver, through the First World War, her responsibilities and career at the publishing house, her children, and her affair with one of the writers. It is a fantastic book, absolutely brilliant!

I adore Penny Vincenzi. She writes so beautifully and so convincingly, I can see these characters so vividly in my mind. I feel it is such a treat that she has written a trilogy about them, as then I can get to know them so well and in such detail. She is a fantastic story teller – one of the best! These books are so difficult to put down – obviously because the writing is so superb and the characters so rich in description, but also partly because there aren’t many chapters and instead are lots of smaller sections and subjects beginning within each chapter, so it is far too easy to skip along to the next section and have whole hours of your day disappear!

I really like Lady Celia – I think she tries very hard to do the right thing by everyone. She often doesn’t go about it in the right way, and often offends and hurts the ones she wants to help, but she does mean well. She is trying to be several women at once – the modern woman enjoying life and out dancing and smoking, the sensible Lady ensuring she reflects well on her parents, the loving husband and mother trying to find enough time to spend with them, and the devoted and determined career woman enjoying the responsibilities and challenges that this brings. You can imagine what a fantastic read this is with such a fascinating main character. For Lady Celia to achieve so much, particularly in the age in which she lives, is remarkable and I greatly admire her – I think she is fast becoming one of my favourite characters in fiction.

She is also a very loyal person – she stays a true friend to Sylvia even though they are worlds apart, and she tries so hard to bring up Sylvia’s daughter, Barty. She also tries to stay loyal to Oliver after he comes back a very changed and withdrawn man after the War. Admittedly she does end up embarking on an affair with Sebastian, but I am still able to like her and not blame her too much for this as she obviously feels so guilt-ridden and is clearly torn apart by indecision.

Another of my favourite characters is Lady Beckenham, Celia’s mother. She is a strong, feisty, and quite terrifying person and seems so determined and set in her ways. Her priority is to preserve her class and name and she has some fantastic lines to demonstrate this, such as declaring that it would be ‘common’ for a woman to cry out and make a fuss during childbirth! However, she has a vulnerable side and it is also a joy to see this.

I was also gripped by the descriptions of how Oliver was changed by the war and the effect on him of his actions and what he had witnessed. I think this was very powerful writing, and I found it so sad and poignant that someone’s whole life and character could be so dramatically altered, and especially that this was sacrificed in order to help defend his country. He came back from the war a completely different man, and this changed his relationships with everyone close to him. I also found his admission of fear, before he went to war, very moving, and I find all these details have stayed in my mind and I have often thought since about the men and women who fought for us and were so brave. This book made it seem far more real than any factual history book.

I love the 1920s period with its fashion and lighthearted way of life, and the description that Penny Vincenzi gives of this period is so detailed and lifelike that I can imagine it all so perfectly, with Lady Celia at the centre of it all.

I actually read these books in the wrong order as I didn’t realise they were a trilogy. So I have number 3 still to read, and can’t wait to get started on it, even though part of me doesn’t want to reach the end of the Lytton’s story. I think all these 3 books will be high up there on my list of most read and favoured, and recommended, stories.

No Angel (Paperback)

By (author): Penny Vincenzi

The first instalment in the sweeping, gripping SPOILS OF TIME trilogy
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