Fellow Readers of a Certain Era, let’s say it together!
I was ten years old when I first saw the Inheritance and twenty years old when I first saw Janna Roslyn, but my reaction to both was identical. I wanted them…
Thus begins Penmarric, the first of the remarkable family sagas of British author Susan Howatch. These novels were book club and Literary Guild staples in the 1970s and 1980s, and with good reason. Using the lives of the members of the royal House of Plantagenet as a jumping-off point, Howatch recasts the Kings and Queens of England as Victorian and Edwardian landowners who share an unusual penchant for passion, madness, questionable behaviors of various stripes, and elaborately plotted vengeance. Even forty-odd years after their initial publication, these books hold up well: It’s easy to sink into them and all too hard to put them down.
Howatch had already published a number of gothic novels with delicious titles like The Devil on Lammas Night when she wrote Penmarric in the early 1970s, but Penmarric was something altogether different. In this hugely entertaining saga, two generations of the wealthy Castallack family, owners of a once-thriving tin mine in windswept Cornwall, battle for ownership of the Inheritance, Penmarric, the magnificent family home. Penmarric represents different things at different times to different people – the past, the future, justice, power, acceptance – and there’s plenty of scheming and underhandedness on the part of patriarch Mark Castallack and his various children (by various women) as they jostle for position within the family.