#BookReview The Whispering House by Elizabeth Brooks @DoubledayUK @izzieghaffari

The-Whispering-House-blog-tour-week-1I’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.

The Whispering HouseAbout 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

Purchase links*
Amazon UK | Hive (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

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

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Elizabeth Brooks. B+WAbout 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.

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#BookReview The Storm by Amanda Jennings @HQStories

9780008287061About the Book

To the outside world Hannah married the perfect man. Behind the closed doors of their imposing house it’s a very different story. Nathan controls everything Hannah does. He chooses her clothes, checks her receipts, and keeps her passport locked away. But why does she let him?

Years before, in the midst of a relentless storm, the tragic events of one night changed everything and Hannah has been living with the consequences every since. Keeping Nathan happy. Doing as she’s told.

But the past is about to catch up with them…

Format: ebook (412 pages)            Publisher: HQ Stories
Publication date: 23rd July 2020 Genre: Contemporary fiction, thriller

Find The Storm on Goodreads

Purchase links*
Amazon UK | Hive (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

I really enjoyed Amanda Jennings’ previous book, The Cliff House, and her beloved Cornwall is once again the location for her latest novel, The Storm. Set mainly around the fishing village of Newlyn and moving between the present day and twenty years earlier, the reader witnesses how the lives of a number of people were changed by the dramatic events of one night in 1998. Fragments of that eventful night are glimpsed in the prologue but the full picture will not become clear until the end of the book.

For Hannah, the events of that night led to her marriage to Nathan, a kind of Faustian bargain she entered into to protect others. Nathan’s obsessive jealousy has seen him control every aspect of Hannah’s life. She steels herself to complicity in this out of guilt – “Our marriage is punishment for what I did” – and for the sake of their son, Alex. So she plays the part expected of her and recites her lines in order to keep the peace. Alex is pretty much the only source of joy in Hannah’s life along with her best friend, Vicky.

Nathan is one disturbing individual. Outwardly he’s a model citizen and pillar of the community, but inside he’s something quite different. As Hannah remarks, he’s “my very own Jekyll and Hyde”. A damaged individual, a traumatic event in Nathan’s childhood explains, if not excuses, his actions towards Hannah.

In the scenes set in 1998, the author vividly depicts the back-breaking work of the six-man crew aboard a small trawler and the dangers they face on a daily basis. Taking such risks out of economic necessity, a safe return to harbour is never guaranteed but when it occurs, the crew seek release through drink, and sometimes drugs, in the local pub. When the Atlantic storm of the title hits the trawler, the awesome force of the sea is evident. “Six men, no more than specks of dust on an ocean so powerful and unpredictable, so savage, they could be swallowed up in the blink of an eye.” The consequences of the storm will change lives forever.

I’m not sure which element I found more compelling: the chilling portrait of Hannah and Nathan’s toxic relationship or the scenes set on the storm-lashed trawler.  The Storm is an intensely atmospheric and compelling drama that shows even the most carefully guarded secrets have a way of coming to the surface. The final lines sent chills down my spine.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of HQ Stories via NetGalley.

In three words: Dark, intense, gripping

Try something similar: The Other You by J. S. Monroe

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Amanda JenningsAbout the Author

Amanda Jennings lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, three daughters, and a menagerie of animals. She studied History of Art at Cambridge and before writing her first book, was a researcher at the BBC.

With a deep fascination for the far-reaching effects of trauma, her books focus on the different ways people find to cope with loss, as well as the moral struggles her protagonists face. When she isn’t writing she can usually be found walking the dog. Her favourite place to be is up a mountain or beside the sea.

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