Monday, 26 January 2015

The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

Author: Kate Riordan
Format: Paperback
Published: 15 Jan 2015

Two generations, two women, two mansions and a hidden secret going down through history. This is my kind of book indeed. Kate Riordan's first book does not disappoint you.

The story is told with two voices; Alice’s and Elisabeth’s. Elizabeth is the unhappy woman, in the 1890s, who once inhabited Stanton house. Alice is the young girl, finding herself unmarried and pregnant in 1933s London. Her shameful mother makes up a story that she is a widow and sends her to a childhood friend in the country to await the birth.

Alice is unhappy about the whole situation when she arrives at Fiercombe Manor.  The house is an old and lovely Tudor house, but she can feel a non-visible presence. Someone is watching her. Old houses like this always have their own ghosts, but Alice feels that there is something more. Little does she know how Elizabeth's life will be intertwined with her own and how her own life will change forever.

Mrs Jelphs, her mother’s childhood friend, and Mr Ruck are both old and have been working for the family since Elizabeth’s time. They keep a close guard upon her, and she does not know why. While she is getting familiar to the estate and the surroundings, she discovers the grounds of the now, torn down, Stanton house, and the ‘Eremitage’ by the river. There is a suffocating feeling hanging over the whole valley, which is not entirely caused by the heat wave. When she finds the diary of Elizabeth in the ‘eremitage’ she slowly discovers the story of a woman, who, in a lot of senses, seems to be connected to her own, present day, situation. A woman who is frightened and in distress.

There are so many secrets and they all seem to escape Alice. Why is nobody talking about how Elizabeth, her daughter and husband died? Why is it a guarded secret? She seeks answers, and it is finally the diary and a local historian, that reveal, little by little, the story of Elizabeth’s life and what happened.

This almost reads like a gothic novel, with dark undertones and suspense. The haunting atmosphere of the valley and the house hangs tight over the people. It is beautifully written, and the story refuses to let go of its secrets until the very end. I really loved this book, and could hardly put it down. It takes unexpected turns and the overall atmosphere is almost ‘Hitchcockian’. A great read!

This book was given to me by Penguin Books UK to review. The views are my personal ones.

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