This is a novel I’d been eagerly anticipating reading and it didn’t disappoint! In fact, I would say that this is Myerson’s best novel so far. It’s a harrowing, but beautifully told, tale of loss, grief and evil.
Mary and her husband Graham buy an old farmhouse in rural Suffolk – it’s a new start, an attempt to save their marriage, after the tragic deaths of their daughters. But making space in their lives for new friends is not easy – even when they are so easy-going and understanding as Eddie and Deborah. And for Mary, there’s a strange undercurrent in their new home, an awareness of something other. Could it be a ghost?
A hundred years ago, the farmhouse was home to Eliza and her large family. One night, during a terrible storm, a stranger arrives seeking help and the family take him in. It’s not long before James has his feet well under the table and his relationship with teenage Eliza evolves into something sinister. Just who is he really, and what does he want?
Sometimes in novels that are split between two different times or narrators, you end up favoring one over the other. But not so in this case – the two stories are woven together so assuredly they are like the two sides of the heart in question, and that it will be stopped is painfully evident as the narrative progresses. What Myerson does is surprise you – this is not just a story about evil acts and the grief they beget, but also about the hope that comes in the wake of the storm. She tells you that it is possible to heal, and that healing might come about in a totally unexpected way. The story is harrowing; she does not flinch from tackling very painful and disturbing subjects, but her prose is so beautiful, so insightful, she carries you along the darkest path always with a glimmer of light.
This is a stunning read. My Mum has just returned my copy and said she couldn’t put it down; we had both been affected by the same particular moments in the narrative, and the story will stay with us both for a very long time.
Jonathan Cape, 2016, ISBN 9780224102490