This is a great, gripping mystery story. I loved reading it for two main reasons: it is set in an English town I love for its beauty and history, and it conveys with vivid realism the stories of two extraordinary ordinary women.
The supernatural element, a constant travelling through time, is the device Pamela Hartshorne chooses to connect the two story-lines. The narration quickly shifts from Elizabethan York and Nell's hard, tragic life enlightened only by her passionate love for Tom, to present-day York, where Tess struggles to overcome the wreckage of her marriage and to protect her son and herself from the rage of Martin, the man she is hiding from, her husband.
The rich descriptive pattern and the care for the details let the readers live in their minds the changes of landscape Tess herself experiences, comparing and contrasting the charms of present and past York. Tess finds herself distressed and displaced, when she realizes that what is happening to her is not simply "dreaming" another person's life, Nell's life in the 16th century.
In York, her shelter while trying to escape from her abusing husband, Tess finds the reassuring presence of Luke, a man she deeply loved in the past, and the disquieting reality of frightening, mysterious sounds coming from walls of the old house she moves in. Haunting and demanding, Nell enters Tess’s life that way and won't leave it before she gets what she wants.
The Shambles - York, England
The two women, despite their differences and the barrier of hundreds of years between them, share a tragic destiny: both married to abusive husbands: Nell was forced to marry sadistic Ralph Maskewe and to forget her dream of marrying his younger brother, Tom, instead; Tess was deceived into an un happy marriage by charming, handsome, but pathologically narcissistic, Martin. The violence Nell experiences is physical and brutal, in Tess’s case, it is more subtle and psychological. However, in both cases, the two women are alone and prisoners of their fears as well as of their husbands' powerful and unsimpathetic grip. The worst is that nobody seems to actually see or understands what really happens to them.
Incredibly enough, Tess and Nell, prisoners of the past, bound by love and fear, will help each other. Nell needs Tess to reveal the world what happened to her and to be finally re-united with her daughter, somehow. Tess will grow up and find the strength to choose what is right for her and her son Oskar, she will decide to stand up and to react to Martin, and all that thanks to Nell.
It's an intense story which takes the reader on a thrilling, dramatic journey, blending romance and brutal domestic violence, supernatural and accurate historical fiction, psychological insight and action.
I gave this book 5 well deserved stars out of 5 on goodreads. (see my post about the book at FLY HIGH! http://flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogspot.it/2014/08/the-memory-of-midnight-by-pamela.html)