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A beautiful, haunting story
on 23 March 2012
From the moment Julia Beckett first sees Greywethers as a five-year-old, she knows there's something special about the lonely farmhouse, but it's not until she's an adult and a successful illustrator of children's books that she gets the chance to buy it. As she settles into her new home, Julia gets to know her new neighbours, including the gardener Iain Sumner, Geoffrey de Mornay, the owner of nearby Crofton Hall (which is said to be haunted), and Freda Hutherson, who somehow seems to know a lot about Julia without being told.
Soon Julia's life becomes mysteriously linked with the life of Mariana Farr, a young woman who lived at Greywethers with her uncle in the 17th century. As Julia spends more and more time in the 1600s she grows increasingly obsessed with Mariana's story and starts finding it difficult to keep the past separate from the present.
There are some books that feel like they could almost have been written specifically for me and Mariana is one of them - it had all the things I love in a book and I really have nothing negative to say about it. The time period for the historical sections is one that I always find interesting to read about (the Restoration era, the plague and the aftermath of the English Civil War), the characters are easy to like and the relationships between them feel believable, and I also loved the atmosphere - although this is not actually a ghost story, it does have quite a ghostly, haunting feel.
Novels with dual time frames don't often work for me as I usually find myself enjoying the historical storyline more than the modern day one. That was not a problem with this book because the events that took place in the two time periods were very closely connected and the transitions between the two were so smooth I hardly noticed when one changed to the other. The way Julia moves between the centuries really felt convincing.
The ending was unexpected and really surprised me because I certainly hadn't guessed what was going to happen. It was maybe a bit abrupt and left a few things unresolved, but I liked it. Susanna Kearsley's writing reminds me of two other authors whose novels I love - Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart. Having enjoyed this one and The Rose Garden so much I'm looking forward to reading more of her books.