Challiss of Uppham is a sweeping novel of the Challiss family, a Victorian upper-class family struggling with the economic downturn that occurred in the 1830s. Continuing the saga found in J.A. Noble’s book The Lime Walk, the Challiss family faces hardships and changes all while trying to maintain their proper place in Norfolk society.
Family drama provides the main storyline of this novel. The first chapter is quite startling as Thomas Henry Challiss commits a heinous crime and must then flee quickly to London. Once there, Thomas Henry finds his brother in dire straits and the family business in ruins. None of this truly matters to Thomas Henry, who continues his spoiled and promiscuous ways, leaving many complications in his wake. Only when he truly finds love does Thomas Henry begin to see his family and his station in life as it truly should be as the heir apparent to all that is Uppham St. Mary’s of Norfolk.
Challiss of Uppham is more than just the story of Thomas Henry Challis, however. This novel is filled with intriguing subplots involving an array of Victorian characters. Servants steal from the master, the vicar finds romance and a factory handyman helps to save the family fortune all while the Challiss family works to maintain their places within society’s Victorian confines.
The history and culture of early Victorian England is evident throughout this novel. Author J.A. Noble has added color and nuance to Challiss of Uppham as its characters reflect on issues of the time such as a woman’s place in society or proper behavior towards servants in a home. Day-to-day Victorian life is fascinating with detailed descriptions of meals, school lessons for the children and the occasional medical intervention techniques including a discussion regarding the use of leeches. Another realistic addition to this book is the use of colloquial Norfolk dialect which J.A. Noble credits in the book’s acknowledgement page to be garnered from the book, Larn Yarself Norfolk by Keith Skipper.
Although this is a novel that continues the storyline of J.A. Noble’s first work, The Lime Walk, this book is a fine stand-alone book. The Challiss family history is explained thoroughly enough to understand plot twists which might have occurred in the first book of the series. While this book occasionally suffers from a few minor editing errors which can be confusing, overall Challiss of Uppham is a surprisingly engaging work of historical fiction.
Written in the literary style of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, Challiss of Uppham is a complex novel with many different perspectives and plot changes. Challiss of Uppham is a grand work of historical fiction, accurately depicting the struggles of an economic downturn in early Victorian England.