“You have a splinter of ice in your heart, Pam.”
“And you, my strange little sister…” she holds the paperweight up to the light and turns it so slowly that the cobalt swirl of colored glass in its center seems to move, like a girl twisting, dancing in a blue dress. “You have a ghost in yours.”
In 1959, while their unconventional mother takes the opportunity to work in Morocco, a much welcomed break from single parenting, the Wildling Girls ( Isla, Violet, Maggie and Dot) are sent for the summer to Applecote Manor in the Cotwalds. Their cousin Audrey’s disappearance has left their aunt and uncle changed in different ways, and there are secrets, ‘omissions’ that plunge the family into darkness. Margot’s presence, her secret explorations in her beloved missing cousin’s rooms sets off strange behavior in her aunt Sybil. The emotional state of her aunt is the most sorrowful weight of the entire novel, the terrifying confusion of loss, the denial of cold reality and the hungry need to transfer the longing for her missing daughter unto Margot. Hope will not die in Sybil’s heart, she can’t leave Applecote, not when her every living breath is electric with the possibility that Audrey could return at any moment. Margot loved Audrey in a way the other sisters didn’t, sharing a private world that left the other sister’s out, someone all for herself until Audrey began to blossom, she adored her daring cousin. Their last summer together Audrey was changing, and how could she have guessed it would be her final goodbye. “Audrey’s home life seemed to me like a never-ending birthday party, albeit without any other guests- until we arrived.” Needing truth, not the evasiveness of the adults, Margot wants to pick of the remains of Audrey’s life. What better place than her room, untouched by the years of her absence?
The sisters are thick as thieves, even in their sisterly pestering of one another, there is love but with the arrival of young men, loyalties will be tested. As their mother always said, ‘Your face must be your fortune, girls, ” Ma will say with a shrug. “I won’t pretend otherwise.” But what does that mean for Margot, the less memorable of the daughters? What happens when she gets a taste of attention, just how dangerous can passion be? The sister’s yearning may lead them astray, risk their very lives or fray their ties to each other. One thing is certain, they will be haunted by this summer for years to come.
Current day, Jess has come to said home to escape life in London and her husband’s deceased wife Mandy, whose presence is still alive everywhere she looks in their home. Mandy, much more glamorous and put together than messy, earthy, girl next door Jess,who can’t help but feel inferior to his former wife. Her step-daughter Bella isn’t about to let Jess usurp her mother’s memory, nor is she willing to let Jess love her. All she wants is things back to the way they once were, when it was just Bella and her father Will. Forced together at Applecote, Jess starts to fear for her daughter Romy and sees troubling behavior in young Bella. Could she really want to harm her half sister? Jess has been spiraling out of control, and the countryside doesn’t seem to be helping her one bit. Nothing does, not therapy and she certainly doesn’t want to take the hand Jess has been reaching out to her. What is Jess to do, isolated with a teenager she doesn’t trust, and often fears? Will is never home, he doesn’t see the things in Bella that Jess does. And what of the home’s past, that seems to be haunted by reminders, pictures, pieces to a puzzle that have been left unsolved for decades. Bella won’t let the things she hears die, she intends to find out the truth about their new home, disrupting the past- the hopeful escape and new beginning Jess was hoping for, which may well be eclipsed by darkness.
This is an engaging tale from past to present, a summer of passion and longing, fear and mystery and the ghosts that tail us through time. Everyone is haunted by something. I enjoyed the present day story but really wanted to spend my time in the past with the Wildling Sisters.
Publication Date: July 25, 2017