The Last Camellia

15848920Title: The Last Camellia
Author: Sarah Jio
Source: from a friend
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: While the plot was fascinating and the writing well done, this book was missing that special something which makes me fall in love with a book.

An apparently innocuous English estate, home to the last of a much-prized variety of camellia, becomes the site of mystery, murder, and intrigue across the years. Right before the beginning of WWII, Flora is convinced by a ring of thieves to take a job as a nanny in order to locate the camellia. Falling in love complicates her plans substantially and puts her in great danger. Over fifty years later, Addison moves into the manor in an attempt to escape her past. Now both her past and that of the manor are catching up to her and if she doesn’t solve the mystery of what happened to Flora, she might be in grave danger as well.

The first thing I noticed about The Last Camellia was how little I noticed the writing. It was technically good, but it didn’t blow me away the way much of the women’s fiction I’ve read lately has (The Husband’s SecretThe Girl You Left Behind). It just introduced you to the plot and then stepped aside. I did get completely caught up in the plot though. There was a lot more suspense then I anticipated, largely because our two protagonists were in far more danger than I expected.  For all of the excitement though, the reader learns about a lot of the action second hand, which made me feel less connected to the story.

Lately I’ve really been enjoying the dual narrative format and this book was no exception. I actually liked it even more than most because the two protagonists lived close enough in time to one another that they could arrive at the same location; meet the same people; and discover the same places. However, as the events of their story mirrored each other exactly throughout the story, the amount of similarity passed the bounds of believability. It pulled me out of the narrative quite a bit because the exact parallels between their stories felt so contrived that they reminded me this was just a story. I also found the ending very contrived, with the reader’s surprise at the ending relying on the characters also being surprised by things I cannot believe they wouldn’t know. So at the end of the day, this book was exciting and objectively well written, but I just couldn’t connect with it. Too many things were constantly reminding me that it was just a story.

Have you ever read a book that you felt was objectively good but which you just didn’t connect with?

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8 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Historical Fiction, Thriller, Women's Fiction

8 responses to “The Last Camellia

  1. I read this book but didn’t love it. It was okay but the ending felt rushed, like the author was trying to stay under a page limit and plain forgot to finish it.

    • Haha, yep, I agree. The ending was far too neat and far too poorly explained. And I’m even someone who likes nice, neat endings! I did enjoy the writing style though, so I’m still hopeful I might enjoy some of her other books more.

  2. I read Allison’s review and now yours and you both have convinced me that this might not be a book I’d enjoy. Thanks for the review!

    • I’d be willing to give other books by this author a chance, but this one wasn’t one of the better books I’ve read recently, so I’d recommend giving it a pass. If you’re looking for something similar, I’d suggest The Husband’s Secret or The Girl You Left Behind instead.

  3. I trust both you and Allison in your opinions on this one, so it’s one I think I will be skipping. I like that you gave other, better book recs though!

    And thanks for linking up to my linky party!!! 😀

  4. Yes, often! The ‘I really didn’t like it but it’s not a bad book’ situation. I’ve held back on Jio’s work because there is such a mix of reviews, and while the plots sounded nice there was nothing that grabbed me. With this I do like what you’ve said about the eras being close enough, it kind of makes me think of The Lake House, but maybe that’s still not enough?

    • I’ve noticed the mixed reviews too. In most of the reviews I’ve read, people often either liked one of her earlier book and not this one or if they liked this one, they weren’t as fond of her earlier books. Hopefully that means I’ll like her other books better 🙂 The Lake House sounds like an interesting story and I think it would be close enough to experience some of the deja vu I found so enjoyable in this book.

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