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3.8 out of 5 stars73
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Dual timeframe novels about a woman discovering secrets buried in an old house seem to be ten a penny at the moment, but this is one of the best I've read recently. The historical aspect concerns the Chartists (a group I remember vaguely from A Level History) who were campaigning for rights and education for workers. Their enigmatic envoy Robert Moore, who is based on a real Chartist leader, comes to lodge in the house of a young girl, Elizabeth, and the tension between them mounts as Robert encourages Elizabeth's love of literature and she slowly becomes obsessed with him.

In the modern thread, Rachel is suffering from post-natal depression coupled with grief over the death of her mother, so when she starts to hear voices and feel strange sensations in the house her mother has bequeathed her, she thinks it's her mind playing tricks on her.

I did enjoy this aspect of the book but if I had to make a criticism it would be that, aside from living in the same house, the link between Rachel and Elizabeth's stories is a bit tenuous and I would have liked Rachel to have delved more deeply into the history of the house and found out more about Elizabeth's time there after her marriage. Still a highly recommended read though.
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on 14 April 2011
This book is a twin track work examining the lives of two women in different eras, one set in the mid eighteenth century and the other in the present day. The former is gripping with well drawn characters, a sense of place and continuous plot development. The latter is somewhat aimless and does not add a great deal to the tension of the book and in some ways a bit indulgent. I found myself wanting to return to the eighteenth century story whilst reading the modern narrative. In fact, the historical section of the book could have stood on its own. It has made me want to research the Chartist movement.
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on 19 June 2008
Like her previous novel - The Mermaid's Child - 'The Telling' treads the terminator between reality and fantasy with intimations of the supernatural. However this has deep roots in geography (Lancaster and South Cumbria) and history (The Chartist Movement).

Written in first person the story is told through the eyes of a contemporary young woman whose mother has died and whose village cottage needs sorting and a young woman in the 19th century whose family lived in the same cottage and whose lodger, with his books and political beliefs, is an updated Miltonian Satan disturbing the oppressed innocence of the rural 'garden' with the apples of his knowledge.

The writing is a sustained exercise in creating mood and character through detail making this a book to be savored slowly rather than wolfed down. What I particularly enjoyed was the strong rooting in the observed-in-detail historical setting. When a book focusing on an historical period leaves you thinking - Yes, that is what it must have been like - then you know you have something special in your hands.

Highly recommended.
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on 20 October 2012
(review by Cat, not Phil)

Downloaded as a freebie by my husband - it's the best book he's picked in a long time! Other reviewers have offered the storyline - I was immersed in the Chartist half of the novel from the beginning. I was disappointed to find out about the inscription on the gravestone so early on in the book - it detracted from the rest of the tale and seemed strange for the author to plant her own 'spoiler' in the story!
The modern day half didn't resonate nearly as well, with the weak relationship between the couple and the lack of a strong plot. Far more could have been made of her proximity to the bookcase and the effect this was having on her.
4 stars instead of 5, because this book just lacks that final conviction in the plot. Beautifully written - it was a pleasure to read a Kindle novel with good proof-reading, a wide vocabulary, and excellent grammar.
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on 3 March 2009
This is a pairing of stories. A woman visits the home of her dead mother to clear it out and begins to sense another presence there. That presence is the spirit of a woman who lived through the Chartist riots of the early 19th century.
The problem is that the solitary modern woman is alone with her impressions and thoughts most of the time, while, by contrast, the earlier woman is interacting with others and falling in love and doing things. This creates an imbalance between them. You finish the book wholly absorbed in the story and impressed with the power of this writer to set a scene, but with a niggling sense that you still don't really know the woman at the heart of it as well as you know the ghost.
Still, I would recommend this book highly. If there was a four and a half star option, this would be the place for it.
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on 30 December 2008
I read this book late into the night in two sittings with, as some books can lead you to have, a delightfully selfish disregard for all that I might need to do the next day. The storyline is one that made me speed through the pages, while the characters, which are captivating, memorable and strong, particularly the earlier inhabitants of the house, made me wish for the book to go on for longer. In Mr Moore Jo Baker has created a man that one feels quite desperate to know, and has also brought to life the historical movement of the chartists.

I came straight onto Amazon after finishing the last page so that I might look at the other two books she has written.
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VINE VOICEon 3 August 2009
I find this book quite difficult to rate. There are two stories:one present day and one from the past. I thoroughly enjoyed the history about the Chartists and how the people tried to deal with the injustice of the system. The characters were vivid and the plot was very interesting. However, the present day story, which was presumably just to present the historical plot, was extremely boring and the protagonist was bland. The story would have worked far better on its own as a historical novel instead of the writer trying to prissy up the plot with the ghost story which, in my opinion, didn't work.
Overall though, worth reading for a historical interest.
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on 23 October 2012
A slightly odd book I found. Rachel drives to the cottage left by her mother who has recently died, finds a room with a book case, and then we switch to a nineteenth century story of Elizabeth, a housemaid living in the same house (as we eventually work out).

The historical bit was enjoyable and interesting, and gave some insight into what life might have been like for a young girl living and working in the village where the story is set. We learned of the incoming Chartist who came to lodge, evicting Lizzie and her sister from their bedroom, and setting up a reading group for the local men. He also encouraged Elizabeth to read, and provided a range of books for her.

In the modern day Rachel wandered about, procrastinating about sorting out her mother's belongings so she could return to her husband and family, and learning a little about the previous inhabitants of the cottage. There were hints of it being a ghost story, but it really didn't take off as such. In fact what kept me reading was the description of the village, which although not actually named in the book, was very clearly described and totally recognisable to anyone who knows it.
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on 29 December 2012
The towns and villages in which we live have changed dramatically during the past few centuries; the lives of those who inhabit them even more so. Yet in most places buildings remain, custodians of the secrets of the people who have lived or worked in them. I've always found this fascinating, and it's one of the key themes of this book.

The Telling recounts relatively brief periods in the lives of Rachel, attempting to clear the house intended as her parents' retirement home in the 21st century, and Elizabeth, who lived in the same house as a nineteen-year-old woman in the 1840s. It explores the relationships of both women with their families and lovers, comparing and contrasting their identities within communities and landscapes.

Rachel suffers from depression. Some reviewers have suggested that her behaviour seems difficult to understand, but I suspect that they may have not had direct experience of the condition. I have, and found these sections extremely convincing.

This isn't an action novel, I suppose, but I find the criticisms that some have made about the pace being slow hard to fathom. Characters, and especially the relationships between them, have been developed slowly but skilfully. I found it a hard book to put down, and was already wishing it was longer well before half way through.

To enjoy this book you probably need that appreciation of time and place to which I alluded in my opening paragraph. I'd heard of the Chartists, but knew little about the movement until I read this book; I can't imagine anyone getting far without wanting to Google it! I found it a moving read - one of the most riveting and engaging books I've encountered for some time. I could certainly never have given this less than five stars.
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on 8 July 2014
Once I picked up this book, I found it very hard to put down, despite many competing demands on my time. I found it near perfect ... it had deep resonances for me, in both the present day story and the in the interweaving 19th century story. The writing is stunning and the storytelling is riveting. The metaphysical join between the two stories is the experience of loss and intense grief for both present day "Rachel", and 19th century "Elizabeth". Elizabeth's story though is told in much more detail and is extremely gripping. Grief stricken Rachel struggles to keep hold on her sanity whereas grief stricken Elizabeth (whose day to day life in a poor family seems extremely hard) still manages to be resilient and resourceful although equally in huge pain. Philosophical and political discourse and subsequent political uprising in the 19th century story is a core theme of the book - it shows the slavery, oppression and severe deprivation of the poor, cloaked by religious ideology which indoctrinated people that this was part of the natural order of things. However, Elizabeth, through the Chartist, Mr Moore, gradually becomes alive to a greatly expanded view of the world. This is a wonderful book, I loved it and would highly recommend it. It is also an implicit commentary on the social equalities and injustices which still exist in the world today.
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