Lulu Publishing Services (2019)
Reviewed by Jan Freeman for Reader Views (3/2020)
If you liked Downton Abby, “Browning House” by Lucia Cascioli will appeal to you because of the lovely English tone; however, the reality of life in those years is a harsh background. Beginning in London in 1553, the Browning’s first child, a son, is born. The closeness of the family brings a measure of safety and comfort to the home, as well as friends and the surrounding community. I believe it is an important point in “Browning House” that such a dedicated family makes a difference for many people in hard times.
The saga follows the history of England – and the expanding Browning clan – through the reign of Queen Elizabeth and then of several other monarchs, describing the political uproar and instability of the times. Terrible poverty and diseases are rampant, as the Browning’s are carefully working toward accumulating the security of wealth while navigating through precarious circumstances in London.
Details such as: descriptions of the clothes that people wore; how their hair was prepared for celebrations; how the houses were decorated; and the customs of the people in those days all bring the characters and the story to life for the reader. Family gatherings, parties, dances, weddings, and more are quite lively and easy to picture.
Political problems and debauchery in high society were continuous miseries for the general public in the late 1500s and much of the 1600s. There was resistance – and sometimes violent rebellion – against the cruelty of the monarchy. There was a great deal of suffering due to the uncontrolled spending and foolish wars entered into by the various rulers. Everyone was affected by the constant clashes between the Catholic Church and the Church of England, which often involved violence and split national alliances. Through it all, the Browning family strives to be a house of worthwhile endeavors and moral behavior, expecting each member to work toward keeping family honor above their own desires. They are close knit and loving, while reaching out to make strong bonds with friends as well as contributing to the betterment of society.
The friction between King James and Parliament is not dry history in this book. One comes to realize how horribly the poor people were affected by the king’s stubborn desire to have his way, whether legal or not.
The novel follows the family until 1699, and the historical references are at the very least educational, and always interesting and thought-provoking. The author did a very good job with a massive amount of information, including changing styles of clothing, transportation, and homes, to a wide range of historical references. The many family characters were blended with real people and occurrences and were well written.
“Browning House” by Lucia Cascioli is a good read, and I enjoyed it. I would have liked it better if it had been presented in two books so that more could be written to round out the newer family characters at the end of the book. After so much detail, the last chapters seemed to be short and the ending was somewhat abrupt.