Having discovered that I loved the writing of Jojo Moyes, I’ve set about to read through her backlist. Windfallen is her second novel, and was originally published in the UK as Foreign Fruit, which, to my thinking, is a much more appropriate title.
The novel begins in the 1950’s in the conservative seaside town of Merham a couple of hours from London. The community is appalled when a previously empty 1930’s art deco house known as Arcadia is taken over by a group of bohemians with ambigious domestic relationships. But 18-year-olds Celia Holden and her friend Lottie Swift (who lives with Celia’s family), are bedazzled. They are fit to burst from the constricting binds of Celia’s uptight mother and Merham’s equally uptight fear of change. They begin to visit the newcomers, entranced by the exotic way they live and their lack of inhibitions. Celia’s mother finds out and sends her off to London. Eight weeks later Celia returns with a fiancé, Guy Bancroft. But everything becomes upended, and Lottie is forced to leave town.
Fifty years later, we pick up with the story of Daisy Parsons, an interior designer who has been hired to restore Arcadia as a hotel. Daisy, 28, has just been abandoned by the father of her four-month old daughter, but needs to pull herself together and complete this job in order to turn her life around. As she uncovers the secrets of Arcadia, she not only helps bring change to Merham, but discovers her own destiny in the process.
Evaluation: Jojo Moyes is an excellent and engrossing storyteller, and of course she had me sobbing by three-quarters of the way through the book. If you like sagas about lost love and found love with a well-written historical background, this will definitely appeal to you. I suppose it is properly considered a “romance,” and in fact it won the 2004 Romance Novelist Association (RNA) Book of the Year Award (under its British title, Foreign Fruit). But I would certainly class Jojo Moyes head and shoulders above many writers designated by that genre.
Published in the UK as Foreign Fruit by Hodder & Stoughton, 2003; Published in the U.S. as Windfallen by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, hardcover 2003; paperback 2013.