I’m delighted to welcome you to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Whispering House by Elizabeth Brooks. Not only is it the first day of the tour, it’s also publication day! My thanks to Izzie at Doubleday for inviting me to participate in the tour and for my digital review copy via NetGalley.
About the Book
Freya Lyell is struggling to move on from her sister Stella’s suicide five years ago. Visiting the bewitching Byrne Hall, only a few miles from the scene of the tragedy, she discovers a portrait of Stella – a portrait she had no idea existed, in a house Stella never set foot in. Or so she thought.
Driven to find out more about her sister’s secrets, Freya is drawn into the world of Byrne Hall and its owners: charismatic artist Cory and his sinister, watchful mother. But as Freya’s relationship with Cory crosses the line into obsession, the darkness behind the locked doors of Byrne Hall threatens to spill out.
Format: Hardcover (352 pages) Publisher: Doubleday
Publication date: 6th August 2020 Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Find The Whispering House on Goodreads
There’s no doubt that in Byrne Hall the author has created another mysterious location for her novel. Viewed for the first time from its gardens, as Freya does, or glimpsed from afar, it seems picture perfect. “There it was; there was Byrne Hall. Impossible to mistake the graceful white house with its pillared porch, and the tiered garden tumbling down through the trees like a wide, green river.” However, delve deeper and its elegant frontage is revealed as merely a facade; the rest of the house is in various stages of disuse and decay, “as godforsaken as Sleeping Beauty’s castle”. This is something of a metaphor for the characters who inhabit it – Diana Byrne and her son, Cory.
Once doyenne of the art world, Diana is now ailing and physically frail, reliant on Cory, the son she dotes on, to look after her. However, through the occasional insights into her thoughts, the reader senses she possesses an inner steel and a strong will. In a curious and rather unsettling way, the house seems to inhabit her as much as she inhabits it. “She – Diana – had become the whispering voice of the house. No, more than that, she had become it’s mind and soul.”
Even Freya begins to think of Byrne Hall as in some sense having a life of its own. “We didn’t get silences like this back home. It was a silence with character and colour; it was the wakeful mind of Byrne Hall, brimful of history and intent.” This air of unreality, along with her desire to find out more about the circumstances of her sister’s death, goes some way to explaining why Freya finds herself drawn into a relationship with Cory. I confess I struggled to see the attraction Cory held for Freya. Convinced he possesses as yet unrecognised artistic talent, his behaviour is increasingly manipulative and controlling. However, having always felt as if she was in her sister’s shadow, Freya finds Cory’s adoration difficult to resist. In addition, Byrne Hall seems to offer her the prospect of a new and more fulfilling life.
As Freya uncovers more connections between Byrne Hall and her sister’s death, picking up fragments here and there, she observes “It was like holding a couple of jigsaw pieces in my palm, knowing there was a whole picture to be made, if only I could find the rest.” You may think you know exactly where the story is going but, like me, you could be wrong. Never underestimate the lengths to which people will go to preserve the things they treasure.
With its atmospheric setting and gothic elements (yes, there is even an attic), The Whispering House combines suspenseful mystery with an absorbing story of delusion and obsession.
In three words: Atmospheric, creepy, immersive
Try something similar: Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks
About the Author
Elizabeth Brooks grew up in Chester and read Classics at Cambridge. Her debut novel Call of the Curlew was shortlisted for the Waverton Good Reads award. The setting for her new novel, The Whispering House, is a manor house named Byrne Hall and is inspired by the home of Agatha Christie. It is full of dark corners and old portraits that carry untold stories of their subjects. Elizabeth lives on the Isle of Man with her husband and children.