This is a story of a long-buried family secret, an absorbingly complicated family history of secrecy and betrayal.
In Brisbane in 2005, Cassandra, still grieving the death of her husband and their young son ten years earlier, is by her grandmother Nell's bedside as she dies. Nell had raised Cassie since she was eleven, and took her back into her home and her antiques business after the accident that killed Cassie's family. So it's not a surprise when she learns that Nell has left her everything, but it's a big surprise that "everything" includes a house in Cornwall. Attached to the deed is a note saying that Cassandra "will understand."
But she doesn't. She has no idea why Nell bought a house in Cornwall. Nell's friend and lawyer, Ben, tells her when--during a trip to the UK just weeks before Cassandra's mother left Cassandra with Nell and left. Her great-aunts, Nell's sister, give her the first clue as to why: Nell, the eldest sister, was a foundling their father Hugh found sitting on the wharf in the port of Marylebone. The only clues to her identity are the contents of a tiny children's suitcase, including a book of fairy stories published that year.
In alternating chapters we follow the history of Nell's birth family in the 1890s through 1913, well Nell turns up on the dock in Marylebone; Nell's search for her answers to her history in the 1970s; Cassandra's search picking up from where Nell left off. Interspersed among these story threads are fairy tales from the book in Nell's suitcase, which are great reading on their own, and provide a nicely done commentary on the lives of Nell's mother and her cousin. All the threads weave together into a thoroughly satisfying story.
I bought this book.