The Orchid House

The Orchid House

A Novel

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From beloved New York Times bestselling author Lucinda Riley, a “sweeping, poignant saga that will enthrall fans of The House at Riverton, Rebecca, and Downton Abbey” (Shelf Awareness).

Spanning from the 1930s to the present day, from the Wharton Park estate in England to Thailand, this sweeping novel tells the tale of a concert pianist and the aristocratic Crawford family, whose shocking secrets are revealed, leading to devastating consequences.

As a child, concert pianist Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park, the grand estate reminiscent of Downton Abbey where her grandfather tended exotic orchids. Years later, while struggling with overwhelming grief over the death of her husband and young child, she returns to this tranquil place. There she reunites with Kit Crawford, heir to the estate and her possible salvation.

When they discover an old diary, Julia seeks out her grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed the estate. Their search takes them back to the 1940s when Harry, a former heir to Wharton Park, married his young society bride, Olivia, on the eve of World War II. When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt for generations to come.

This atmospheric story alternates between the magical world of Wharton Park and Thailand during World War II. Filled with twists and turns, passions and lies, and ultimately redemption, The Orchid House is a beautiful, romantic, and poignant novel.
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  • Atria Books | 
  • 464 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451655780 | 
  • February 2012
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The Orchid House

Lucinda Riley discusses how her own sprawling estate in the English countryside served as inspiration for THE ORCHID HOUSE.

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Read an Excerpt

Elsie nodded. “I’m warning you, it might take me some time to remember, but—well now, I suppose this story starts with me, when I was learning to be a lady’s maid in 1939, up at the Big House. You wouldn’t have recognized Wharton Park, Julia. The whole place was so alive, buzzing with the Crawford family and their friends. They had house parties almost every week in the shooting season. And one weekend, some friends of theirs came up from London, and I was put in charge of looking after their eighteen-year-old daughter, one Olivia Drew-Norris. She was my first ‘lady.’ ” Elsie’s eyes brightened with... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Orchid House includes discussion questions that are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

1. How does the myth of the black orchid at the beginning of the book contribute and add to your understanding of the novel’s meaning?

2. At the start of the book, Julia is suffering from a tragic loss. Do you think her grief is sympathetically portrayed?

3. The class structure during the Second World War plays a major part in the plot. How do you feel the war changed the relationships between master and servant?

4. How do you feel the exotic settings of Thailand, and Wharton Park in the English countryside, contribute to the novel’s atmosphere?

5. One of the main themes of the novel is duty versus love. Do you feel that Harry made the right decision?

6. The Orchid House has a dual narrative, set in past and present. Discuss and compare the lives of Olivia and Julia. Do you think the modern woman’s comparative freedom has made our lives happier?

7. Loyalty is another theme of The Orchid House. How did this impact the storyline? Is it always best to tell the truth, or to tell a lie to protect?

8. The Orchid House has a redemptive ending. Do you feel that this was realistic? Can the past see more

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