Victorian widow, crumbling country pile: what could possibly go wrong?
This debut novel harks back to the age of Henry James‘ The Turn Of The Screw, with a nod to Sarah Waters and Daphne du Maurier on the way.
A young Victorian widow inherits the family country house that her late husband died in while overseeing renovations shortly after their marriage. Laura Purcell creates a vivid and claustrophobic world inhabited by unwelcoming and secretive servants, a central character reeling from an unlikely marriage and almost instant widowhood and the sort of dilapidated country pile that might well have ‘abandon hope’ engraved into the front door.
The narrative is interspersed with dialogue between the young widow and a doctor that clearly takes place after the events in the house unfold and a third strand is the contents of an Elizabethan diary written by a forebear of the late master of the house. As ill fortune turns decidedly darker, the reader is left to ponder the mad or bad equation and it’s to the author’s credit that it’s easy to slip between the three settings as the gothic tale unspools and the secrets of the house and its tragic inhabitants are revealed.
A perfect companion for a spot of late night reading…in the dark, if you dare!