When her father suffers a severe stroke, classical musician Frances Morrison gives up her peripatetic lifestyle to take up the reigns of his glassmaking business. Minster Glass has been a family business since the mid-nineteenth century and Fran is excited when they are asked to restore a beautiful angel stained glass panel for the local church.
When she starts researching the window, Fran discovers the angel is connected to Minster Glass in a way she never could’ve imagined and learns the story behind its creation through the diary of a young Victorian woman, Laura Brownlow. As Laura tells her story, Fran realises she is finally laying down some permanent roots but there is one story which remains tantalisingly elusive: what really happened to the mother who died when Fran was just a baby and why is her father so tormented?
The Glass Painter’s Daughter intrigued me initially because I’m absolutely fascinated by the whole glassmaking process so I was hoping for a book that would satisfy my curiosity about this wonderful craft. I loved the idea of Minster Glass being a family business that had been handed down the ages, and that Fran’s father was still using the traditional methods of glassmaking. I would’ve liked a little more attention on the actual restoration process of the angel rather than on the story that inspired its creation, mainly because I thought the angel got a little lost amongst the other plot threads. There is a lot going on this novel and there definitely is not enough room for everything so it is inevitable that some if it will seem extraneous.
The core element of the story, other than the angel, is Fran’s relationship with her father which has become distant since she left home. Fran’s father has never been an easy man to get along with and his refusal to talk to Fran about her mother has been a constant source of frustration. As her father’s condition deteriorates, Fran realises she is running out of time but she is shocked when she learns he has confided in the local vicar who just may hold all the answers to her questions. At this stage, Fran wasn’t the only one feeling frustrated as this part of the story just seems to be going round in constant circles and by the time we learn the truth, I’d given up caring.
While Fran is rediscovering her love for glassmaking, she indulges her musical side by joining the local choir which leads her to a romance with the conductor, Ben, which has to be one of the most boring parts of the book. Apart from their love of music, Fran and Ben seem to have little in common but Fran falls in love with him far too quickly despite her best intentions. The love triangle which is subsequently created with the addition of Zac, her father’s assistant, falls completely flat because neither relationship is given enough room to breathe. There should’ve been enough sparks between Fran and Zac for us to be screaming at her not to chose Ben, but the whole thing left me completely cold.
Along with everything going on with Fran, we also have the addition of Laura’s diaries and the chapters move between the present and the past, however it doesn’t really offer much to the narrative. The subtitle of the book infers Fran will learn something from the past that will help her resolve her own issues, but I really didn’t feel that she did. I normally enjoy past-present stories, particularly when the stories mirror each other, but this one just did not hit the mark for me. Fran’s research methods also left a lot to be desired and I found it incredible that neither Fran nor her father had ever gone through the records readily available in their own business, especially those relating to their own inheritance. Maybe it is just the family researcher in me, but Fran just seemed so unexcited by those records and seemed content to wonder about things that would’ve had me scurrying of back into the archives. If she hadn’t uncovered that family tree her father had created, she never would’ve bothered to check to see if Laura was related to her or not. That would’ve been so unacceptable to me.
So, along with Fran’s issues with her father and her restoration of the angel, you have the story of how the angel window came into being, plus Fran’s attempts at a romance. As if that is not enough to be getting on with, the author throws in a homeless girl, Amber, who Fran takes under her wing and her renewed acquaintance with her friend Jo who is embroiled in an unwise affair that is about to blow up in her face. Ultimately, there are just far too many threads which end up detracting from the main plot and I can’t say I cared much about any of the characters in the end.