About the Book
From the present day…Applecote Manor captivates Jessie with it promise of hazy summers in the Cotswolds. She believes it’s the perfect escape for her troubled family. But the house has an unsettling history, and strange rumours surround the estate. To the fifties …When teenage Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote during the heat wave of ’59, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter Audrey five years before. The sisters are drawn into the mystery of Audrey’s vanishing – until the stifling summer takes a shocking, deadly turn. Will one unthinkable choice bind them together, or tear them apart?
|Publication:||13th July 2017||Genre:||Historical Fiction|
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From the opening chapter, there is an absorbing atmosphere of mystery that the author skilfully maintains throughout the book. Alternating between past and present, there are subtle links, echoes and common themes in both stories. Often, in a dual time narrative such as this, I find myself more drawn to the parts set in the past. However, in this case, I felt equally engaged in both stories.
Despite her unexplained disappearance five years earlier, Audrey is a constant, silent, almost ghostly, presence in the story set in the past.
‘There’s a patter of small footsteps. A swing of plait. A flick of yellow ribbon. Something pulls at the edges, a darkness that no one dare name.’
Similarly, Will’s first wife, Mandy, exerts a similar influence on the story set in the present. There are with echoes of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca in Jessie’s fixation with her predecessor, so much more stylish and accomplished she imagines than she is. But of course, the second Mrs de Winter never had to deal with a rebellious step-daughter. In fact, Jessie’s sense that she can never live up to Mandy in the memories of her step-daughter and husband, form a barrier and blind her to what is really going on. Every set back, Jessie interprets as a sign of Mandy’s ‘triumph’ from beyond the grave.
There is lovely descriptive writing about the countryside that conjures up an idyllic summer that seems somehow frozen in time: ‘The river drifts lazily ahead, twisting gently, wide as a country lane, willow trees kissing the cloudy green surface.’ However, beneath the idyll there are hints of danger, secrets and mystery.
I enjoyed the way the book explored themes of identity. For instance, how Audrey and Margot looked similar, could be mistaken for each other even and the effect this has on Margot and others around her.
‘I ask myself, what would Audrey do right now if she were me, and I her, and our fates had been swapped, like straw boaters, as they so easily might have been in the jumble of the last days of summer?’
Or the way in which the bond between Margot and her sisters – so strong in the beginning, almost telepathic – starts to unravel. Margot even starts to envy Audrey her status as an only child, seeing her as ‘a sweet-sharp cordial undiluted by siblings’. Similarly, Jessie’s hope that the move to Applecote will help the family come together seem precarious, as if the house is determined that the secrets of the past must emerge.
‘She wonders about the other thing lying dormant at Applecote, waiting for the right conditions to come alive.’
In the slow unveiling of the facts behind Audrey’s disappearance, the author certainly sent this reader up a few dead ends. I enjoyed the author’s previous book, Black Rabbit Hall, but thought this was even better.
I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Michael Joseph, in return for an honest review.
In three words: Dark, suspenseful, atmospheric
Try something similar…The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
About the Author
Eve Chase is the pseudonym of a journalist who has worked extensively across the British press. Eve Chase always wanted to write about families – ones that go wrong but somehow survive – and big old houses, where family secrets and untold stories seed in the crumbling stone walls. She lives in Oxford, England with her husband and three children.
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