When Ada Howell is 13 years old, her father dies and her mother wastes no time selling the crumbling family home in Wales and moves them into far less salubrious lodgings in Brockley with little care as to how Ada feels about it. Upon leaving school it’s assumed that Ada will move on to study at Oxford, however after an embarassingly unsuccessful interview, she fails to gain admittance and is now at a loose end as to what her future holds.
Thankfully her Godmother comes to her rescue and gifts her with a sizeable contribution towards the arrangement of a two-month trip to Italy with a group called the Dilettanti Discoveries. Thrilled that she will at last have the opportunity to be with the type of people she thinks she should associate with, Ada does thorough research on the individuals that she will be spending the next few weeks with. She’s disappointed to discover that most of them are already connected in some way, either by upbringing or simply through the types of connections that seem to happen when one moves in certain circles, or when one’s families happen to do so, and you manage to be born into it. But still, Ada knows that she will do her best to get to know her peers in ways that will ensure that she will put herself on a solid footing for her future.
And so, we are introduced into Italian art and culture and Laura Vaughan weaves a wondrous, picturesque tale that literally made me feel like I was on a virtual tour of the country, its streets, sites, scenes and especially its galleries. Into this tapestry she has cleverly placed her characters – a rather motley group – and one can tell almost from the minute you meet them, that they are standing on the precipice of an event that will be momentous and that will make of break their relationships. There is an undercurrent throughout parts 1 and 2 of the book. It’s ominous and edgy and you feel like you know what’s going on, but somehow you might have just walked into the room and missed an important part of the conversation, and you’ll never be able to catch up … it’s just out of reach. Vaughan is a clever master of innuendo, and I found that the reason this all worked so well was that most of her characters fell on the wrong side of being likeable!
I disliked practically all of the characters! But this is part of what makes the darkness of the book work so well. Ada always seems to be plotting and planning. I couldn’t ever get a sense of who she was, but then I realised that neither could she! The whole point of Ada is that she is trying to figure out who she needs to be in order to fit in with these people who she thinks she desperately wants to be like. She has no true sense of self, and is constantly moulding and re-moulding herself to fit in. Annabelle, Lorcan, Mallory, Oliver, Petra, Nate and Clemency are constantly at odds, lurking in and out of the shadows of each others’ limelight to see who can impress the most. They’re all quite horrible people, occupying lofty heights in their heads but fulfilling very little true purpose in reality other than to cause each other pain and despair. The backdrop against which they do it though, is quite stunning!
I didn’t find this an easy book to read, but because of the gorgeous descriptions it gets 4 stars from me. Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me along. Take a look at what other bloggers are saying about The Favour …
Laura Vaughan grew up in rural Wales and studied Art History in Italy and Classics at Bristol and Oxford. She got her first book deal aged twenty-two and went on to write eleven books for children and young adults. is her first novel for adults. She lives in South London with her husband and two children.