Title: The Favour
Author: Laura Vaughan
Publication Date: 4th March 2021
Fortune favours the fraud…
When she was thirteen years old, Ada Howell lost not just her father, but the life she felt she was destined to lead. Now, at eighteen, Ada is given a second chance when her wealthy godmother gifts her with an extravagant art history trip to Italy.
In the palazzos of Venice, the cathedrals of Florence and the villas of Rome, she finally finds herself among the kind of people she aspires to be: sophisticated, cultured, privileged. Ada does everything in her power to prove she is one of them. And when a member of the group dies in suspicious circumstances, she seizes the opportunity to permanently bind herself to this gilded set.
But everything hidden must eventually surface, and when it does, Ada discovers she’s been keeping a far darker secret than she could ever have imagined…
This book immediately appealed to me with its premise. I love art history, Italy, dark academia and twisted friendships and The Favour totally delivered on all fronts. The story follows Ada, a young woman who believes she is destined for a life more glamorous and elite than the one circumstance has left her with. She grabs an opportunity to attend an art history trip for the wealthy and privileged when her godmother suggests it and attempts, with an almost frightening single-mindedness, to ingratiate herself with the wealthy and aristocratic group of people she meets there. Things then get complicated when a member of the group meets an untimely end.
The first thing I have to say about The Favour is how gorgeous the writing is. I was totally immersed in the world of culture and history that Italy offers and that was in large part due to the sensual and elegant prose. The second thing I should say is that, if you need to like the characters in the book you are reading, The Favour may not be for you! These people, with one or two exceptions, are pretty horrific. They range from snobbish, pretentious and arrogant to downright cruel and aloof. Personally, I find reading about awful people fascinating because it keeps things unpredictable plus there is a dark curiosity in watching someone like Ada, who will truly go to any lengths to become one of the ‘anointed’ members of the privileged and patrician set she becomes obsessed with. She is ruthlessly desperate to get not just what she wants but what she truly believes she is entitled to. Everything in Ada’s narrative of her own attempt to rise to the top is loaded with a slightly seedy and definitely ugly ambition that seeps into every interaction she has. The only member of the group in The Favour that I actually liked was Mallory, who seems to possess at least a modicum of genuine feeling and morality, whilst most of the others are so impressed with themselves and their imagined cultural intelligence that I imagine they would be truly unbearable in real life. All of this makes for a fantastically insidious read which I couldn’t put down. I also think the ending is particularly fitting and yet also managed to surprise me with an unexpected twist. Overall, this is a luxurious, cunning and engrossing read which I would absolutely recommend.
Thank you so much to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me on this tour and organising it. I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.