From the present day . . .
Applecote Manor captivates Jessie with it promise of hazy summers in the Cotswolds. She believes it's the perfect escape for her troubled family. But the house has an unsettling history, and strange rumours surround the estate.
to the fifties . . .
When teenage Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote during the heatwave of '59, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter Audrey five years before.
The sisters are drawn into the mystery of Audrey's vanishing - until the stifling summer takes a shocking, deadly turn. Will one unthinkable choice bind them together, or tear them apart?Oh yes, lovely. Beautiful cover, a dual timeline, a dual narrative, a country house, a heatwave, sisters and a missing girl. Say no more. I had to read this book.
And it did not disappoint.
Chase's writing is beautiful. It is atmospheric, haunting, soporific and evocative. Whether it was the sections set in the present day, in the rain and snow or the heatwave in the past, Chase has captured the details of the moment and described them in fluent, poetic prose. The nuances in her writing help create a sense of threat, unease, secrecy, sadness and unhappiness. The girls - and there are many, past and present - are all very easy to visualise even when they are shadowy echoes of each other or reflections of each other in the mirrors.
I loved the way the two stories lines flowed along, seemingly unconnected yet echoing each other until they finally found themselves falling into step together. It was clever, it was powerful, poignant and extremely well done.
There were passages that reminded me of Rebecca, The Woman in Black, Ms Havisham and then also much more contemporary writers. There are passages of exemplary gothic writing, passages that are perfect examples of a modern psychological thriller and then moments that are so lyrical, poetic and descriptive that they felt magical and bewitching. A treat for anyone who loves language and words. A treat for anyone who loves a well crafted novel.
Chase is able to combine a story that through Jessie, Bella and Romy explores some very modern and up to the minute issues that face parents today with a secondary plot from bygone days and more universal issues. By allowing her new occupants of Applecot Manor to rediscover the unsolved mystery of a missing girl from the 50's Chase allows them to confront their fears, issues and problems which threaten to gnaw away and their chances of happiness. And also through the present day storyline, Chase allows her characters from the 'past' to seek closure, resolution and acceptance.
This novel is about women and girls, decades apart but all experiencing those universal themes of secrets, love, loss and grief. I was totally caught up in both plot lines, both settings of Applecot Manor and related to all the characters - equally invested in them and their search for peace, trust, security and forgiveness. I think Chase cast a spell with this novel and took me to a place I did not want to leave, however sinister or chilling I found it at times. There is nothing more enticing than a country home filled with haunting secrets and characters with different motives needing to travel an emotional and physical journey in order to understand themselves and the events around them more fully.
I highly recommend this novel. The setting and location is beautiful; immediately intriguing and engaging. The writing is beyond a doubt enchanting and the pace is slow enough to savour but fast enough to maintain tension and suspense. The characters are memorable. They are misguided, hurting, lost and yet generous and good.
A fantastic read. Not only is it universal in the themes it explores but it is original in its merging of genres. This will appeal to fans of historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, gothic and women's fiction. I would recommend it to people who like to read about coming of age, of motherhood and about the complexities of relationships and the repercussions of secrets. A real gem.
The Vanishing Act of Audrey Wilde is published on 13th July 2017 by Penguin.
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