This story opens in present day Bristol where the narrator, Hannah, who is in her late thirties, works in a museum. One day Hannah catches a glimpse of a childhood friend, Ellen Brecht, and reacts very badly as she believes she is seeing a ghost. The tale is told in alternating chapters by Hannah and flits between the idyllic childhood she shared with Ellen in Cornwall and the present day in Bristol.
This novel is well-crafted and shows how even the closest of childhood friendships can be riven by jealously. When Hannah first encounters Ellen, she is infatuated with her and her parents and their lifestyle - particularly as she finds her own parents, though extremely loving and caring, rather dull and boring. Hannah, Ellen and Jago, Hannah's adopted brother, form a very close friendship and things become complicated when childhood friendship turns to love.
Hannah is fascinated with Ellen who is dramatic, determined and attention-seeking and who brings such excitement into Hannah's previously dull life. I am reluctant to elaborate any further on the plot in case I might spoil the story for other readers and that would be a shame as there are some rather surprising developments.
Louise Douglas is an accomplished writer and her characters are quite well-drawn; some are rather complex and hover between evoking sympathy in the reader and at other times feelings of downright dislike. I enjoyed her descriptions of Cornwall and could almost taste the local cider.
Unquestionably implausible at times, this novel still has the requisites for a satisfying light read i.e. interesting plot, themes of friendship, love, obsession, loss, tragedy and, at least partial redemption.
I would recommend this book as an undemanding holiday read although it is certainly not a story I would be interested in reading again.