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....