Publisher: Penguin | Publication date: 15th January 2015 | Edition: Paperback (own copy)
Firecombe is a place of secrets. They fret among the uppermost branches of the beech trees and brood at the cold bottom of the stream that cleaves the valley in two. The past has seeped into the soil herem like spilt blood…
This brooding story is carefully unravelled by two narrators, Alice Eveleigh, an expectant, unmarried young mother from London in the 1930’s, and Elizabeth Stanton, the lady of Stanton Hall and Fiercombe Manor. During both timelines, the writer has successfully projected a great sense of loss in different guises, despair, loneliness, but also hope.
It’s an emotional and sometimes arduous read, but it’s worth sticking with it.
Briefly, the usually sensible Alice finds herself at a place in her life that she can no longer control. She is having a child and despite her best efforts she cannot conceal her situation any longer. Her mother is disappointed beyond belief, but she writes to Edith, her old friend and housekeeper of Fiercombe Manor, which is about as far away from London as she can muster before there is any hint of `shame’.
As the Manor is cut off from the remaining villagers during bad weather and the oppressive, unkempt trees shadow the grounds and house, this often heightens Alice’s fears and experiences during her stay.
Whilst she is there, Alice learns more about the previous occupants, Elizabeth Stanton, her husband, Edward, and her peculiar daughter, Isabel, and strives to uncover their unspoken past. Through a series of discoveries via Elizabeth’s secret journal, the odd photograph, and a sense of foreboding which preys on her, young Alice feels compelled to piece their somewhat tortured existence back together before she has to leave. And perhaps during the process she can try to make sense of her own life, before she is forced to make one of the toughest choices any mother could be faced with.
This book is filled with glorious descriptions, projecting a vivid sense of the surroundings and the emotion of the story.
It was eerie and suspenseful in places, but personally I found it a little slower paced than I had expected.
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