The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes, Review: Web of mystery

The Peacock Emporium, an early Jojo Moyes novel, is filled with drama and characters as intriguing as the curios in lead Suzanna Peacock’s shop. Jojo Moyes is now is best known for her internationally bestselling novel Me Before You.

The Peacock Emporium Synopsis

The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes, Book Review - Book coverIn the Sixties, Athene Forster is the most glamorous girl of her generation. Nicknamed the Last Deb, she is also beautiful, spoilt and out of control. When she agrees to marry dashing young heir Douglas Fairley-Hulme her parents breathe a sigh of relief. But within two years rumours have begun to circulate about Athene’s affair with a young salesman.

Thirty-five years on, Suzanna Peacock is struggling with her glamorous mother’s legacy. At odds with her father and his second wife, struggling in a stalled marriage, she returns to the place of her birth to find that the ghost of her mother, in differing ways, still haunts them all. The only place she finds comfort is in her shop, The Peacock Emporium; a coffee shop-cum-curio store, decorated in her own image, which provides a haven for other misfits in the town. There she makes perhaps the first real friends of her life, including Alejandro, a male midwife, escaping his own ghosts in Argentina.

But the spectre of Athene and the shop itself combine to set in place a chain of tragic events, forcing Suzanna to confront the feelings she has disguised for so long – and her family, in their varying ways, finally to deal with the events of the past.

And Suzanna discovers the key to her history, and her happiness may have been in front of her all along. 

Genre: Romance, Drama, Chicklit, Historical, Mystery

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I found this title while browsing one of those book clearance tables, a few years after its first publication in 2004. It struck me as the diamond amongst the rough. Jojo Moyes was an author I had heard great things about and the title The Peacock Emporium so decadent and lavish it really captured my interest. I also have a soft spot for stories spanning generations and this story certainly ticked that box.

This is not a novel to capture you in the first few pages. However, the information provided upfront from disparate of settings is crucial to the much grander story that unfolds. This is a story that builds slowly but the crescendo is very much worth it.

She gave me another hard look, the kind that can only travel from mother to daughter.

The drama and mystery in Jojo Moyes’ The Peacock Emporium is as intriguing and alluring as its title.

I loved the wonderfully complex set of characters and web of relationships explored in this novel. Moyes displays a real generosity to her characters and a great eye for detail as an author. She effortlessly provides the backstories of several key characters without losing the reader’s interest or story momentum.

He felt like a rock to her shifting, mercurial self, her separateness bestowing upon him a sense of solidity, of surety. She crept up on him like ivy, clinging and beautiful, a welcome parasitic sprite. He had known from the night he first saw her that she was meant for him; she had prompted an ache, an unexpected sense that something was lacking, that some fundamental part of him was, without him having previously known it, unfulfilled. She had made him feel that, lyrically, fatalistically. He had not known such words were even in his vocabulary.

In addition to Suzanne and her checkered family history and mystery as a backdrop, Moyes presents a charming and colourful ensemble cast that frequent her shop, The Peacock Emporium. Moyes descriptive passages were so vivid that it was like I was watching a movie rather than reading a book.

The problem with getting older was not so much that one got stuck on the past, Vivi often thought, but that there was so much more of the past to get lost in.

Ultimately, I found this novel such a compelling read. I did not want to put it down, nor did I want it to end. In my opinion, this is high-quality women’s fiction.

UPDATE: We have since very much enjoyed (and highly recommend) the following additional Jojo Moyes books – Honeymoon in Paris, The Girl You Left Behind and The One Plus One.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5

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If you like the sound of The Peacock Emporium you may also enjoy reading:
The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May /  The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton /  The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty /  The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth /  Our Top Intelligent Rom-Coms – Reading List

About the Author, Jojo Moyes

Read an interview with Women’s Weekly where Jojo Moyes discusses her inspiration for The Peacock Emporium.

Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London. She had a varied career including stints as a minicab controller, typer of braille statements for blind people and brochure writer. She did a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University. In 1992, she won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to attend the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at City University. Jojo worked as a journalist for ten years, including a year at South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, and nine at The Independent. There where she worked variously as News Reporter, Assistant News Editor and Arts and Media Correspondent.

Jojo has been a full-time novelist since 2002, when her first book, Sheltering Rain was published. She has written many more critically acclaimed novels since then. Jojo has won the Romantic Novelist’s Award twice, and Me Before You has been nominated for Book of the Year at the UK Galaxy Book Awards. Me Before You has since gone on to sell over 8 million copies worldwide.

Jojo lives and writes on a farm in Essex, England with her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, and their three children. Check out her official website and join her 86,000 Twitter followers.

Other reviews of The Peacock Emporium

“The Peacock Emporium is full of unexpected twists and turns that prompt the reader consider his or her own past.” — APNews 

“I wasn’t sure I was going to like it at first, but by the end could barely put it down. The writing is crisp and very readable; the story cleverly bound together, even if the viewpoint and decade switches are sometimes a little confusing.” — Sue’s Book Reviews

“There are so many different strands to this story but I loved how past experiences of each character was blended together perfectly to form a tale with so many important messages about family and looking after the ones you love.” — BiblioBeth