It's gets increasingly difficult every year to choose just a few books out of the many ....ahem....216 books at the last count .... that I have read and reviewed, it's a bit like trying to pick a favourite child however, some will always linger just that little bit longer in my heart..so here they are...
Huge thanks to all the talented and gracious authors who have helped me to escape into a world beyond my own and who have taken me on the most extraordinary of adventures.
Here are my Favourite Twelve...in no particular order...
A few years ago, I had membership of the National Trust and spent a very happy year travelling between stately homes, wandering in and out of dusty rooms and tripping along the echoing corridors of Elizabethan long galleries, and I guess, there's always a tendency to stop and peer into shadows. The historian in me always wishes that the vestiges of a bygone era will, somehow, manifest itself, and I will get to see the shadowy occupants going about their daily business. However, having just finished House of Shadows, I'm not so sure that I would now want to look too closely into those shadowy recesses, for fear of what I would find lurking there.
Kate Vavasour wakes in hospital after a devastating fall, she has no memory of what happened or, indeed,of who she is. People come to visit her in hospital and remind her that she is a young widow with a small son, but this means nothing to Kate, even her name feels wrong and as a tight band settles around her head, she begins to experience a life that has no reality in the here and now. Returning to Askerby Hall, a home she shares with her in-laws, Kate attempts to make sense of her surroundings, but Kate's memories, which are frighteningly real, belong not to the present, but to Isabel Vavasour , some four hundred years earlier.
House of Shadows is now the fourth book by this talented author that I have read, and as always, as soon as my eyes light on the first opening sentence, I know that she will not let me down. I'm guilty of reading her books far too quickly, telling myself at the start that I should take it slowly and savor each word, but of course I don't. I gallop through at speed and read until my eyes ache and I become immersed in a story that flits effortlessly between past and present, with neither timescale outshining the other and always with a real sense of purpose and readability. I am taken into a world that is believable, frighteningly realistic, and more than a little scary and even as Isabel and Kate's worlds start to collide, you can't help but want to believe that somehow it might work, that voices can speak to us across centuries, and that stories left untold will be finished, and that resolution for troubled souls can be achieved.
Pamela Hartshorne has overwhelmingly cornered this niche in the dual time narrative genre. She is quite simply a master story teller, a weaver of words and her books are a joy to read. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
Best read with a tankard of small ale and a trencher soaked with rich, venison broth....
The story opens in 2014, where we
are introduced to one of the main characters, Josephine Grey. She appears
troubled, given to soul searching moments of introspection, and so, when an
email pings from Freya Seymour, a girl she once knew at boarding school, some
eighteen years earlier, the troubled nature of Josephine's personality begins
to manifest itself. We then return back in time to 1996, when Freya and
Josephine were the sort of best mates who were joined at the hip, who knew
everything there was to know about each other, who loved and laughed, hugged
and cried and yet, as the highs and lows of both their lives start to be
stripped away, secrets which have haunted them both, start to be revealed.
It’s an accomplished debut novel,
there is fine attention to detail and setting the story in an all-girls
boarding school, a place it must be said, I am not familiar with, is an interesting
choice of venue. There is is a definite sense of the ennui which is all too
easily manifested by girls being cloistered together, and of the petty
squabbles, that can exist between teenagers, and especially girls, regardless
of their background. The mystery at the heart of the novel is nicely explored,
and there is the lure of fascination between two girl friends who, seemingly,
share everything, to the exclusivity of anyone else.
Overall, it’s rather a slow
burner of a story, and whilst the dénouement at the end explains why the friendship
between these two girls has been allowed to degenerate, the secret which has
tormented lives, whilst tragic, isn’t as venomous as I would have imagined, but
I think, therein lies the strength of the story, that lives, and friendships, are often ruined
for much less.
Best read with a Pizza Maguerita,
heavy on the cheese… and bottle of icy cold , brain freezing, cherry cola.
About the Author
Rebecca Thornton previously worked as a freelance journalist covering a range of topics. She now devotes her time to writing and The Exclusives is her debut novel.
You can read Rebecca's five favourite boarding school stories here
The Exclusives is out now as an e-book. Published in paperback in April 2016