A tale of sisters, secrets and the teenage years of confusion and temptations on the brink of adulthood. The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase is about two groups of sisters, unrelated, who live decades apart in the Cotswold house of Applecote Manor. Overhanging everything is the mysterious disappearance of a twelve-year-old girl, Audrey Wilde, from the same house in the Fifties.
Jessie and Will move to Applecote Manor, a rundown doer-upper, with their toddler Romy and Will’s teenage daughter Bella. Jessie is seeking a country life, Will hopes to step back from his logistics business. Almost as soon as they arrive, things change. Will’s business partner leaves and causes the sale of the company so, while he negotiates this, Jessie is left in the run-down house with the two girls. Romy fearlessly explores the potentially dangerous land, including river, pool, woods and well. Bella sullenly resents Jessie for not being her own mother, who was killed in a road accident. And then they learn about the disappearance of Audrey Wilde.
Is there something intrinsically wrong with the house and the land surrounding it? Why are the neighbours shunning Jessie and her two daughters? Who is the woman with the two black dogs who often stops and stares at the house? Why don’t local labourers want to work there? There are lots of things going on in this book, almost too many.
The second story strand focuses on four cousins of Audrey who, years after her disappearance, spend the summer of 1959 at Applecote Manor with their still grieving aunt and uncle. The girls, who are knitted together as a tight unit when they arrive, are teased apart by the arrival of two local boys, Harry and Tom. As the flirting and laden glances become more meaningful, the story darkens and some of the truth is revealed.
I enjoyed this book despite the occasionally dense plotting. There are many twists and turns, some of which could have been stripped out to give air to the central mystery. I particularly enjoyed the 1959 section and the inter-action of the four sisters, shadowed at every step by their memories of Audrey. The message: if you don’t face up to tragedy when it happens, it can reverberate through the years and never dies.
Read more about Eve Chase’s novels here.
If you like this, try:-
‘Freya’ by Anthony Quinn
‘Shelter’ by Sarah Franklin
‘The Distant Hours’ by Kate Morton
‘The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde’ by Eve Chase [UK: Michael Joseph] Buy now
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