The Maze at Windermere: A Novel

Image of The Maze at Windermere: A Novel
Release Date: 
January 9, 2018
Reviewed by: 

“a dramatic and interesting look into the past of a town and the lives of those who’ve dwelled in it.”

In 2011, at Windermere, her family home in Newport, a downward-sliding tennis pro falls in love with a disabled heiress. At first, Sandy Allison was awkward around Alice du Pont. The only reason he’d met her was because he was having an affair with her married sister, Margo, then was passed on to Alice’s friend, Aisha, when Margo lost interest. Little by little, however, Sandy gets to know Alice and sees her in ways the others can’t. They fall in love but Aisha has a stake in Alice’s fortune, and interferes . . .

“Somewhere Alice was out there, damaged, hurt, in love with him though he didn’t deserve her. Even now, after everything, couldn’t he find her and save her, and save himself?”

In 1896, Franklin Drexel, favorite of wealthy older women, closeted gay in an era when such a state was never even whispered about, if not being illegal, desperately searches for a wealthy widow to wed, thus bringing respectability, and a cover for his secret life.

“It was not lost on Franklin that his days as a lapdog were numbered. He was not a fool. And he kept his eyes open. The husbands did not concern themselves with him. He was their wives’ plaything, and the wives ruled Newport.”

He’s introduced to Ellen Newcombe, a youngish widow with small children. She invites him to Windermere, her home in Newport.  Franklin is certain he can woo and win her and secure his future, but Ellen has a protective father. . . .

In the summer of 1863, young Henry James meets Alice Taylor. He is intrigued by her, perhaps even loves her, but he will eventually break her heart while making her into the main character of a very famous novel. “I treated you as if you were the lead I could turn into gold (for all my observing I could not see that you were already gold) that is the chief lesson of this summer of so many lessons.”

In the Spring of 1778, Ballard, a British officer is sent to investigate Sebatiao da Silva, a Portuguese Jew masquerading as a Christian, who may or may not be supporting the Revolutionaries. Instead, he falls in love with the man’s daughter, Judith, and finds himself in a triangle, which will result in murder.

“We are thrown together by the Exigencies of War, and the Rules which otherwise govern are for a time suspended. If she is naïf enough to think that someone of my Class might marry a Jew, then her father is not. So I cannot pretend to court her as I otherwise might. But if not that, then what?”

In the fall of 1692, Prudence Selwyn, an orphaned Quaker girl, must find a way to marry her sweetheart instead of the older man who courts her.

“I ask’d him did he want to marry me. These other troubling Matters aside. Did his Heart want it? Did he wish me to be his Wife? He said he did. I ask’d again: would he marry me if there was a way to be found? Would he be my Husband? He said he would. And he said it with an oath that shock’d my ears.”

Written in easily read prose, using phrases and spellings contemporary to whatever time is being depicted, some chapters are in first person point of view, while others are in third person. Each is clearly marked with the season and year so there’s no doubt who is speaking and which story is being portrayed. Though taken separately, each storyline is a beautiful tribute to some form of love, when interspersed with the others’ story, as each tale reaches its climax and hastens toward its end, they become somewhat confused. Notations and dates disappear and the reader has to guess which pair of lovers is being portrayed, with the chapters becoming shorter as if to match the frantic thoughts of the narrator.

Some of the stories will come to shocking ends, with lovers lost, and unhappiness prevailing. A few will have the happily ever after they deserve. Others will be left in limbo, with their lives and loves unresolved, for the future or the reader to decide.

The Maze at Windermere is a dramatic and interesting look into the past of a town and the lives of those who’ve dwelled in it.