13 January 2022
My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book
I still dream, every night, of Polneath on fire. Smoke unfurling out of an upper window and a hectic orange light cascading across the terrace.
By day, Ivy Boscawen mourns the loss of her son Tim in the Great War. But by night she mourns another boy - one whose death decades ago haunts her still.
For Ivy is sure that there is more to what happened all those years ago: the fire at the Great House, and the terrible events that came after. A truth she must uncover, if she is ever to be free.
📖 My review ...
I've eagerly awaited this second novel by Beth Underdown ever since I was captivated by her debut novel, The Witchfinder's Sister, which was published back in 2017.
The Key in the Lock opens in 1918 as we meet Ivy Boscawen who is mourning the loss of her son Tim in the Great War and contemplating a different sort of Christmas without him. Tangled with the devastating grief of a mother for her lost son is the story of Ivy's involvement in another tragedy which took place some thirty years before. Moving effortlessly between two time frames we gradually discover the secret which Ivy has kept for so long and understand that her grief is more than just a passing shadow. There's a haunting gothic melancholy to the story which evolves ever so slowly but is no less captivating as we get to piece together the mystery at the heart of the novel and the part that so many fascinating characters have played in covering up just what happened at Polneath on that fateful night in 1888.
Beautifully written as I knew it would be from this talented author, the quiet introspection of The Key in the Lock had me turning the pages almost without realising as so immersed in the story I didn't notice the passage of time until I looked up and realised I wasn't with Ivy at Polneath. Every emotion is expressed with exquisite gentleness and yet there is an underlying strength to the novel which is so beautifully expressed that we get understand the depth of Ivy's grief, her devastating loss of a beloved son, her guilt for secrets unexpressed and her love for a man unworthy of her affections.
The Key in the Lock is an accomplished and beautifully described family drama which has been well worth the wait and which will sit comfortably on my Reads of the Year List for 2022.
Best read with...a bowl of meat stew and a glass or two of sherry..
Beth Underdown lectures in creative writing at the University of Manchester, Her debut, The Witchfinder's Sister, was a Richard and Judy bestseller and winner of the HWA Goldboro GoldCrown Debut Award. In 2017, to time with publication, Beth was selected by the Observer as one of their New Faces of Fiction.
Twitter @bethunderdown #TheKeyintheLock