Top positive review
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All the right ingredients for a wonderfully dark, Gothic tale
on 24 October 2010
I've been blissfully absorbed in this haunting, Gothic tale for the past four days. The dual timeframe/buried secrets style is a bit of cliché now, but when it's done well (like this), I'm hooked.
The story follows publisher Edie Burchill's quest to find out exactly what happened when her mother Meredith was evacuated to Milderhurst Castle during WW2. By co-incidence (or is it?), Edie's favourite childhood book, the dark, mystical True History of the Mud Man, was written by the owner of Milderhurst, Raymond Blythe, and Edie's journey brings her into contact with Raymond's daughters; twins Persephone and Seraphina and their younger sister Juniper.
The twins - dour, practical Percy and meek, kind-hearted Saffy - are wonderfully eccentric in both the wartime and contemporary (1992) threads. The ethereal, damaged Juniper doesn't make much of an impression until about halfway through the book when her tragic story is revealed. Along the way Edie unravels tales of lost love, frustrated amibition, madness and murder. The pace really builds up in the second half of the book, leading to a stormy, rain-soaked denouement in which all the loose ends are tied up very neatly.
This wonderfully atmospheric story has all the right Gothic ingredients for me - books, twins, lost letters, family secrets/betrayal and a dilapidated country house with secret passageways and batty relatives in the attic. I've loved all three of Kate Morton's books now, can't wait to see what she comes up with next. I'd recommend this one to fans of The Thirteenth Tale as I think it fills the gap very nicely while we wait (and wait) for Diane Setterfield's next book.