The main character of Twilight was introduced in Katherine Mosby’s previous novel, The Season of Lillian Dawes, which was a wonderfully written novel that this reviewer had the pleasure to read earlier this year. In The Season of Lillian Dawes, Lavinia Gibbs had just moved back to the States after having lived in Paris for many years. Twilight is Lavinia’s story, starting from her childhood and leading to her eventual life in Paris as a young adult.
Lavinia is born at the turn of the twentieth century into an upper-class family of wealth and prominence. She, unfortunately, is anything but conventional and, to the embarrassment of her parents, in particular her father, Lavinia breaks off an engagement that took her forever to attain (she was already considered an old maid at age twenty-seven). She finally realizes that she never loved Shelby Sterling, her fiancé, and after some advice from a friend who was also very unconventional (Mavis was, of all things, an ex-suffragette), Lavinia decides she does not want to get married after all. This takes great courage, because Lavinia wants to do the right thing, but living the way her parents expect of her means that Lavinia would probably live unhappily for the rest of her life. After the engagement is broken off, she agrees to move to Paris to help the family save face and is given a monthly allowance from her father, giving her a very comfortable living.
She is now in her 30's and has moved to Paris. Lavinia slowly develops into the woman she becomes in The Season of Lillian Dawes. One of the first thing she aims to do is to lose her virginity (again on the advice of Mavis) and has an affair with a man named Sven. She doesn’t love him, but he is someone she feels comfortable with. She gets a dog (a pug she names Boswell) and makes new friends among the English-speaking crowd.
About halfway through the novel she finally meets Gaston, the man who will become the love of her life. He also happens to be married. Gaston is her employer. She is helping him clean up the apartment he inherited from his wife's uncle, Marceau Feydeau.
Their affair takes a long time to commence as they flirt behind notes that they leave for each other through a messenger - a longtime friend of Gaston's, Jean-Marc, a man who is a little slow and does odd jobs for Gaston. Lavinia's world soon becomes only this - Gaston, Jean-Marc, and herself. She has her friends, but she cannot include them in her life with Gaston for obvious reasons. Her friends are not French (the French would not have blinked twice about this indiscretion) and they would not have approved.
Twilight is a beautifully written novel, albeit slow-paced, about a woman who decides that the conventional life is not for her. Her way of life comes about because of her need to survive in a world where the beautiful succeed as well as the wealthy. Lavinia is neither of these but eventually finds a fulfilling life in Paris. Mosby tells the story under the backdrops of the two World Wars, with a gentle prose that seems to be her trademark.
With that said, I didn't enjoy Twilight as much as I loved The Season of Lillian Dawes. While the writing felt similar, the novel as a whole was not as satisfying as one would have liked. While some readers may see this as a great ploy to encourage reading a supposed sequel, I wasn't pleased that Mosby chose to leave the ending as ambiguous as she did. My only hope is that this ending is a signal to the reader that there will be indeed another novel that will feature Lavinia Gibbs and her eccentric personality.
Twilight was a greatly awaited novel for this reviewer, and while it did not stand up as well as The Season of Lillian Dawes, I was glad to have read it. I do encourage readers to pick up The Season of Lillian Dawes and to get acquainted with this author’s talents.